One of the main challenges facing the burgeoning electric vehicle industry is the problem of batteries. The best batteries available can’t keep up with our driving habits, especially in such a sprawling country as the U.S. The best range you can hope for, even with expensive lithium-ion batteries is around 100 miles between charges. And charges take way too long to compete with fill-up-and-go gas guzzlers. Until that challenge is solved, and as long as liquid fuels remain relatively affordable, we’re just not going to see widespread adoption of electric vehicles.

Until a major breakthrough is made in the area of battery chemistry, a company called Better Place has the best solution I’ve seen to this problem—one that could put EVs on a equal footing with liquid fueled cars.

Robotic battery-swapping stations will allow subscribers to the Better Place network to roll into an automated station and have their depleted battery switched for a fresh one in only a couple of minutes.

The system was inspired by the highly reliable systems used on military aircraft for securing bombs and other ordnance until, and only until, the pilot decides to release them.

Better Place has been running a demo with taxis in Tokyo and now plans to roll it out for taxis in the San Francisco Bay Area over the next three years. I’m betting high visibility, reliability, and ease of use will make Better Place the iPhone of EVs, the standard everyone else will have to follow.