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Today in Cleantech

Better Place, the startup that’s championing battery switching rather than fast charging as the solution to electric vehicle range anxiety, has just gotten the green light to try out a pan-European test of its unorthodox approach to electric mobility. The European Commission is giving €4.95-million (US$7.1-million) grant to a consortium led by the Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup to work on a project that will include battery-switching stations in Amsterdam and Copenhagen, as well as plans for more switching stations in between the two cities. Better Place is already working on Denmark as a test market, and expects its first battery-swapping station there to open this summer. That’s in advance of sales of the Renault Fluence Z.E., the first car built specifically with battery swapping with Better Place’s technology in mind, which are set to start in the fourth quarter of this year. Of course, plenty of automakers and industry observers have questioned Better Place’s battery-swapping model, saying it will be far too expensive (Better Place plans to own the batteries) and difficult to get multiple car manufacturers to build around the removable battery concept. Maybe that’s why Better Place has always started its projects with old-fashioned plug-in car chargers, and continues to plan to make those available in projects it’s working on in China, Australia, Europe and the United States.