The Battery Swapping Model
Range anxiety is a common topic of discussion among potential EV adopters and technology enthusiasts. It is defined as the user’s worry that an EV will be completely depleted of its juice before it reaches its destination. Currently available A/C charging takes roughly around 4-6 hours for complete charging of EV batteries. This exacerbates the dilemma of a potential buyer.
Battery swapping is the alternative proposed model that has gained the attention of technology enthusiasts. As per this approach, swapping stations are set up across cities. These stations exchange charged batteries with discharged batteries. The whole process is claimed to take less than 3 minutes, making it as less time-consuming as gas filling at gas stations.
Japanese two-wheeler company, Honda has launched an electric two-wheeler in Japan. The PCX electric scooter consists of a battery that can be charged with AC/DC power. The key feature of the scooter is that its batteries can be easily removed for charging or swapping.
The battery swapping model has already been practiced by companies such as Tesla and Renault in Israel for four-wheelers. Better Place (An Israeli company that came up with battery swapping stations), had suffered a loss of $812M due to a host of reasons. Some of these reasons included poor marketing strategies and naïve implementation methods. Israel is strongly dominated by IC engine based vehicles and there was a natural resistance by the local population towards the transition to electric vehicles.
However, it must be noted that the battery swapping model does not have inherent issues. It needs better implementation and understanding of the citizenry. Slovakia’s Greenway Company has implemented battery swapping models for vans with significant success in Poland and Slovakia.
This reinstates a new technology’s development and implementation rule that a concept’s pioneer may not necessarily be the one who enjoys the profits.
Battery Swapping is a viable solution for overcoming various hurdles in electric vehicle adoption. However key learning from the first movers of the model that come to the fore are discussed below:
1. Standardization of battery cells: The battery storage technology is undergoing tremendous research. Various companies are coming up with new technologies. For the swapping model function seamlessly there needs to be a standard among all battery manufacturers.
2. The reliability dilemma: The reliability of rented batteries can be a big concern among model participants because swapped (charged) battery may not be as efficient (Old batteries would be swapped by users – Older batteries suffer some reduction in range) as new batteries of cars. A system to ensure a sufficient range of swappable batteries needs to be in place.
The technology would be a boon in densely populated areas or places with a limited place for charging stations. This is true in a number of mega-cities and places in Asia, where access to electric points is not necessarily as obvious as in planned western cities. Battery swapping would increase the adoption in such places to a great degree.
The widespread adoption of the model is highly dependent on cost-effectiveness, accessibility and ease of operability. It would be interesting to witness different approaches that companies take to ensure success with battery swapping models.
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