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Taiwan's Electric Scooter Riders Get a Charge From RFID

KentFa Advanced Technology is installing stations where scooter operators can trade in their bikes' depleted batteries for fully charged ones.
By Claire Swedberg
The user can then place the battery in the compartment, at which time the UHF reader captures the battery's ID and confirms it against data related to that particular battery. If it has already been recharged the maximum number times, the battery will not be accepted. In that case, the user is directed to a separate location to acquire a new battery. Otherwise, the station's sensor system measures the amount of electric charge remaining in the battery, estimates the amount of time necessary to fully recharge it, and bills the user's EasyCard card account accordingly.

Once the door of the compartment containing the fully charged battery slides open, the user can remove the battery and proceed to use it until the next recharge is required.

Some exchange stations automatically recharge the spent batteries onsite, and then dispense those recharged batteries to subsequent customers. At other stations, KentFa's staff must periodically retrieve the discharged batteries and take them to be recharged, before returning them for use by other customers.

The greatest challenge facing the use of RFID was the highly metallic environment, says Gary Huang, KentFa's VP. KentFa found reads to be unreliable in the presence of the batteries using traditional patch or dipole reader antennas. Therefore, the firm developed a near-field antenna that is fitted into each rack, with a cable running through a slot to each battery storage area that connects the antenna to the reader.

There are 60 battery-exchange stations throughout Taipei and Kaohsiung. To date, Liu reports, the stations have proven popular since they provide immediate replacement of a fully charged battery. By the end of 2014, the company intends to have installed an additional 500 such stations.

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