The EV revolution faces big challenges in the form of range anxiety, longer charging times, higher vehicle costs, battery longevity, and replacement costs. The battery of an electric vehicle constitutes approximately 40% of the upfront cost of an EV. This high upfront cost of EVs is a key barrier to widespread adoption.
Removing the battery from the vehicle and providing the same through a service can lower an EV’s cost and offer users a better value proposition. Such a model can ensure that upfront prices of EVs are at par or even lower than the ICE vehicles. Battery swapping provides a method of decoupling batteries from EVs and reducing their upfront costs.
Battery swapping is a process in which a depleted battery of an EV is exchanged with a fully charged battery at a swapping station. The battery swapping station acts as a battery aggregator that offers the infrastructure where depleted batteries are charged and then offered to EV drivers to replace the discharged battery.
This approach ensures battery longevity, reduces replacement costs, and eliminates longer charging times. This approach could further be integrated with EV OEMs, and users can simply lease batteries from battery swapping stations instead of owning them. This would reduce the vehicle cost as batteries are the major contributors to EVs, encouraging users to buy the EVs at lower costs and lease the battery at cheap rates.
A large network of battery swapping stations will also eliminate range anxiety helping users to travel long distances without worrying about the battery range. A typical battery swapping station consists of a bulk charger with an enclosed locker system housing 10-30 batteries. The bulk charger can charge all the batteries at once.
Battery swapping holds significant value when:
- EV users want to decrease their waiting time and avoid waiting for 1-2 hours for charging solution.
- EVs have a significant distance to be traveled during a day.
- The public charging options are not suitable or adequately available.
- Customers are price sensitive regarding the upfront cost of the EV.
- Users who do not have access to personal/private charging
Battery swapping systems can be categorized into two types:
- Manual battery swapping systems – This is a system where the batteries are manually placed and removed from the charging source by hand. The Manual swapping stations are modular and occupy less space than the other charging stations. These systems are mainly used for two and three-wheelers vehicles as their batteries are smaller in size and weight.
- Autonomous battery swapping systems – They use a robotic arm that is semi or fully automated. These systems are mainly used for a four-wheeler and heavy vehicle applications whose energy storage systems are larger and heavier. Autonomous battery-swapping systems require more space and are capital intensive
Battery swapping stations eliminate recharge time as drained batteries can be quickly exchanged for fully charged ones. This gives EV users an almost similar experience as they would have at a fossil fuel recharging station. They allow for the separation of the battery cost from the vehicle cost, lowering the EV cost with owners essentially paying a subscription for the battery. The following are a few benefits of battery swapping.
• Reduction in up-front cost
Battery accounts for about 35-50 percent of the total cost of an EV. In the case of a swap system, the vehicle does not have a built-in battery, and therefore ownership of the battery would lie with the energy operator and not with the vehicle owner. This brings the vehicle cost within the buyer’s capacity, which becomes equal to or lesser than the cost of its ICE equivalent.
• Elimination of long charging times and elaborate public infrastructure
AC charging and DC charging times are long and require a huge parking area. Battery swapping offers an alternative that may be faster than refueling an ICE vehicle and requires limited space to install swapping stations.
• Enhanced battery life
Fast charging and charging in high ambient temperatures may lead to battery degradation. At the same time, swapped batteries can be charged via slow charging in a controlled environment to prolong the battery life. The connectivity of the charger to an analytical engine can be a huge value-add in extending battery life and predicting failures and battery end-of-life.
• Improved infrastructure utilization
The assets shall have better utilization leading to lower service turnaround time and better ROIs.
• Grid load management
The schedule for charging batteries can be managed to ensure uniform load demand on the grid. The number of batteries being charged at the same place can act as a good load balancer for the grid. For instance, charging batteries at night or during off-peak hours or controlling brings in balancing during grid fluctuations.