We are in the midst of a full court press to get EV charging stations in place to reduce range anxiety for those purchasing EVs. Fair enough.

However we now hear that an alternative to EV charging is in the wings, battery swapping. According to an article posted in Parknews today, a Chinese company is touting the idea. It does have some pluses. Rather than spend at best half an hour charging, the battery could be swapped in a few minutes.

In addition, you wouldn’t actually own the batteries but rent them and a relatively low monthly cost, thus reducing the overall cost of the EV substantially. In addition, the batteries would receive professional care and last longer. Plus, as battery technology catches up with the popularity of EVs, They can easily be placed into the commercial stream.  What’s not to like.

If this catches on, would we need half a million charging stations that are slated for installation? Would you need to install a requisite number of chargers in your garage?

I guess the question is “Is EV technology racing ahead, moving faster than we can keep up with it?”

Would it not be in everyone’s best interest to allow the technology to develop at its natural pace rather than forcing it upon the huddled masses? I think my favorite law, that of unintended consequences, may be lurking just around the EV corner.


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John Van Horn

3 Responses

  1. Battery swapping was already tried by Better Place but ended up, in the words of Fast Company magazine the “the most spectacularly failed technology start up of the 21st century.” Raised $900 million from investors and ended up selling 1,500 cars in five years. No company will sign up to use a standard battery that works in any car and who wants to own a car where the most important component could be one day be a good battery that works well and the next day be one nearing the end of its useful life with depleted capacity and performance. Tesla tried battery charging in 2013, actually building a prototype but quickly dropped it in favor of installing its own network of chargers. Perhaps the biggest issue is if we had gone to a standard car battery back in 2012 ish, there wouldn’t be any impetus for the battery research and improvements that have occurred in the last 10 years. Now that’s market-based

    This chinese company swaps batteries that have 123 miles of charge in five minutes, but only $142/month gets you six swaps a month. that is 738 miles a month, or under 9000 miles a year. The average American drives a car 13,500 miles a year. The swapping device requires a human attendant, not the car owner, to drive the car onto the swapping device. As the magazine of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) said, that is like requiring an attendant for every EV charging station. Better Place only got 80 miles per charge.

    Range is a huge issue for EVs and the manufacturers right now are striving to get up to as much as 400 miles per charge. Lucid says a 350 kW fast charger will get 300 miles of range in 20 minutes for their car.

    A simple google will get you the IEEE article with all the issues with this approach.

    You’re trying a little to hard to bash the push to put in EV charging, John! Its pretty clear the world is going to go to EVs, and yes, that will be market-driven and happen over a LONG time. Market share of EVs is growing rapidly and we will likely hit the tipping point of 15% market share for them to become mainstream (rather than early, wealthy adopters) within five years. There is a short term problem of needing some one to subsidize the installation of chargers on highways for long distance trips, because it is a huge investment and the turnover isn’t there. It’s a chicken and an egg problem, and the Feds are stepping up to fill that gap to support the transition to EVs. They still won’t end up providing even the 1% of chargers needed for fast charging by 2030. And we, as the parking industry, do have a role to play to put in chargers. Yes the technology will evolve and change, so putting in a few and growing the number as demand increases is the prudent approach. And yes the grid needs investment, but it does anyway as those who live in Texas will attest. I am certainly opposed to dumping the need for community charging on new parking structures by requiring them at 25% of the spaces and putting in electrical power/infrastructure for 100% of the stalls as Boston has done. We will need a fair number in residential parking, but at the very most 25% of resi parking stalls by 2050, and we have a lot of time to adjust that for any technology and market changes that happen before then. We’ll need FAR less in parking serving destinations. In my opinion, over time the most likely threat to a big investment in parking chargers today is corner gas stations converting to EV Charging. However charging at home at night is best for all parties, and thus EV charging in residential parking is likely to be the most beneficial way of charging. There remains an issue that up to 30% of potential EV owners don’t control the ability to install a charger at home, and some workplace charging is thus desirable. But I see most visitor charging as being very minor and capable of being handled by corner and highway gas stations. BP says their charging network in Europe is close to returning more profitability than gas pumps. What better use is there for the small parcel of a corner gas station as demand for gas fueling naturally declines? Yet another fast food outlet?

  2. HI Mary – Thanks for your very complete take on the subject. However Irony seems to take the day. To wit: I quote from IDTechex report received today –
    Fleet vehicles with high daily mileage are more suitable for battery swapping because they are more sensitive to downtime costs. Swapping stations offer a much quicker turnaround time for low state of charge EVs. Fleet vehicles are also usually a single model. This eliminates the difficulty of the unification of different battery connection/locking mechanisms between various EV manufacturers and promotes the use of shared swap stations as shown by BAIC BJEV and Aulton’s partnership in China. It also solves the problem of limited range, improves work efficiency, and increases the income of fleet operators. Furthermore, it has the potential to reduce the upfront cost of the EV. Since batteries can effectively be leased, the EV can be purchased without its costliest component. On average, IDTechEx research suggests that decoupling the cost of the battery can reduce the purchase price of EVs by 20%. The IDTechEx report on swapping examines the battery as a service business model and outlines why fleets will benefit from using a swapping architecture.

    Heavy duty battery swapping is in its pilot stages

    The commercial heavy duty segment includes buses, trucks, and construction machinery. Almost all the major Chinese heavy truck manufacturers have now launched a battery-swapping model for their battery electric trucks, including FAW, CAMC, Dongfeng, JMC, Shanxi Automobile, and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC). IDTechEx forecast that swap capable new-energy/electric heavy trucks (EHTs) sales will capture over 30% market share of total pure electric heavy trucks sales in China by the end of 2022. The IDTechEx report includes the major Chinese players in the battery swapping supply chain and technical parameters of the various battery swapping truck models. YOu can read the whole thing here: https://www.idtechex.com/en/research-report/battery-swapping-for-electric-vehicles-2022-2032-technology-players-and-forecasts/868

    Yes, they comment that two and three wheeler vehicles are leading the way, with heavy equipment and commercial vehicles following close behind. They also note that the concept is growing most popular in China and believe that EU is close behind. Yes, the US will not follow in this concept. Yet.

    Bash EV Charging? I have said repeatedly that I believe that certainly some EVs may be the finest cars ever made. However I don’t believe that we should be forced into them. I don’t believe the government should be involved in the process of getting people into EVs. If you want to buy one, so be it. But to spend billions for a technology that may or may not be here yet seems a tad over the top when we have other problems. The concept of purposely raising gas prices $4 a gallon to ‘force’ people into EVs they don’t want or can’t afford is anathema to me. Sorry Mary, building a market on the backs of the poor just doesn’t cut it. The landed gentry can afford $6 a gallon gas and not notice it, but those who make their living driving their vehicles, or need them to get to work or school, find the additional thousands a year they are being forced to pay for gas a tremendous hardship. As usual, we are making societal changes and the poorest amongst us get it in the neck.

    Let the marketplace work.


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