Battery swapping offers a plug-and-play solution for charging the battery of an electric vehicle (EV). It involves switching out a depleted battery for a fully charged one at a swapping station within the battery swapping operator’s (BSO) network. This recharge process can be carried out manually in mere minutes and is comparable to gasoline refueling time and significantly shorter than conventional point charging.
Battery swapping is an option that involves exchanging discharged batteries for charged ones and allows you to charge them separately. This disconnects charging and battery usage and keeps the vehicle running with minimal downtime. Compared to 4-wheelers and e-buses, battery swapping is typically used for smaller vehicles such as 2Ws and 3Ws with smaller, easier-to-swap batteries. However, solutions for the latter segments are also emerging. Battery swapping has three major advantages over overcharging: it saves time, space, and money, as long as each swappable battery is actively used.
Battery swapping is a subset of battery as a Service (BaaS) business models, which involve users purchasing an EV without the battery, significantly lowering upfront costs, and paying a regular subscription fee (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) to service providers for battery services throughout the vehicle’s lifetime. BaaS is a channel for implementing swapping solutions with fixed and removable batteries.
Battery swapping can either be done manually or through an automated method. Both methods are explained in detail below.
The users of the manual swapping stations must take out and replace the battery. The ones that require manual battery swapping are currently the most common. These modular battery swapping stations take up little room. The station has a bulk charger and various lockers where individual batteries are kept. Due to the rising risk of battery theft, the locker system has become more popular. Batteries in the locker must be manually installed and removed (by hand). Due to the smaller size of the battery pack, they are primarily utilized for 2W and 3W battery applications. Batteries that weigh less than 9 kg are used in the manual swapping stations to ensure that only one or two people are required for handling. To further increase range and power, some vehicles may offer the option of using multiple battery packs.
- Is cost-effective as it does not use labor, robots, or complex mechanical components for its operation.
- Easier to scale up due to lesser investment: This form of swapping is easier to operate and involves less investment.
- Slower adoption rate: Users need to service the vehicle themselves. Hence, the adoption rate could be lower as compared to other battery-swapping technologies.
- Safety concerns: If the battery swap is not executed properly, a short circuit might occur, causing a fire.
- Limited segments: Under the battery weight, this technology would see adoption in 2W and 3W segments and not much in 4W and e-buses.
Robotic / Automated swapping
This type of battery swapping is either semi-automated or fully automated. The use of a robotic arm aids the swapping procedure. The robotic arm removes the car’s depleted battery packs and replaces them with fully charged packs. The depleted battery packs are then placed on shelves to recharge.
Due to their heavier and larger battery packs requiring mechanical assistance, these battery stations are best suited for 4W and e-bus applications. The battery swapping stations can be side-mounted or under-floor (platform style). Since automobile batteries are mounted on the floor, under-the-floor swapping is primarily used for automobiles. E-buses use side-mounted battery swapping because they have plenty of room on either side to make it possible.
- Faster adoption: Users do not have to manually place batteries, and hence it is more user friendly.
- Safety: Limited human intervention is required as the entire process is mechanized. Hence, this technology is safer than the manual process.
- Expensive and complex: The requirement of robotic metal arms and other mechanical components makes the system expensive. The system is relatively more complex to manage.