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Battery switch station opens in Denmark

Electric vehicle technology firm Better Place has unveiled its first battery switching station in Europe, demonstrating the technology for the first time.

The station, opened in the town of Gladsaxe just outside Danish capital Copenhagen, is the first of 20 swapping stations to be built over the next nine months, Better Place announced June 28.

It follows the company's first retail and demonstration center, which opened in March to showcase the technology involved with battery switching and the first vehicle set to feature it, the Renault Fluence Z.E.

Better Place says that the battery switch experience will be simple and fully automated - according to the company, customers will simply need to swipe their membership card before entering a building similar to a car wash, where the depleted battery will be switched for a full one.

The whole process should take just minutes, says the firm, far less than the hours required to charge a battery using an outlet and potentially faster than stopping for traditional gas.

"The Better Place solution offers a great driving experience, improves air quality and increases the share of renewable energy in the electric grid – all of this at a more affordable cost of ownership than comparable conventional cars," said Better Place Denmark's Johnny Hansen.

"I am convinced that with the Battery Switch model we have overcome the last barrier to the electric car's commercial breakthrough: range, and based on the interest we have received so far, I expect this to be the top selling car in Denmark in just a few years."

The Renault Fluence Z.E. is set to hit the roads later this year, priced at €27,496 in Denmark, although consumers will also have to pay a monthly battery switching fee, which starts at €199 monthly.

Also on July 28, Renault confirmed the price of the Fluence Z.E. in the United Kingdom, where it will launch in 2012.

The first version of the model will be priced at £22,850/€25,600 (dropping to £17,850/€20,000 after a £5,000/€5,600 grant from the British government), with a battery lease starting at £75/€84 a month.

That makes the model considerably cheaper than its two major competitors in Britain, the £28,990 (€32,500) iMiEV and the £30,990 (€34,700) Nissan Leaf.