No more charge anxiety – is exchanging batteries the future of electric vehicles?
By Sourced Externally
June 28, 2022
Pit stops aren’t just for Formula One, you know. In Norway, at a facility owned by Chinese electric car manufacturer Nio, it’s not wet weather tyres or a new nose box being ratcheted on by automated robots, it’s the substitution of a drained battery for a freshly charged one in as little as three minutes.
Such swap shops are widespread in China but the recently opened Power Swap Station, to the south of Oslo, is Europe’s first and only such specialist operation. So is battery swapping the future of EV?
Nio’s subscription service certainly has its benefits. Because batteries remain the most expensive EV component, removing that cost from the purchase of a vehicle and replacing it with a monthly fee to swap out the battery could save EV customers a few bob. The subscription battery swap model also means that your car is always using the latest battery technology.
Accessibility is an issue too. For some EV customers, the ability to swap batteries at service stations to juice their get-arounds is highly appealing if they don’t have a driveway or on-street parking in reach of their home-charging points.
On the other side of the wheel, installing battery-swapping infrastructure would be more expensive than maintaining charge-point infrastructure that’s already in place across the UK. Currently there around 42,000 charge points in more than 15,000 locations in the country – that’s more charge points than there are petrol stations.
Julian Skidmore, senior software engineer at EV-charging consultants Versinetic, says another issue facing widespread adoption is the lack of battery standardisation and UK- or EU-wide regulation. Without this, users could run the risk of turning up to swap a battery at a service station that might not have the make to fit their model of vehicle.
‘Service stations would have to stock multiple battery formats and be recharging them all the time,’ he says. ‘That’s not feasible – they’d all have to be the same. The EU has already begun a process of EV battery regulation for the purposes of recycling but not yet anything like battery swapping.’
That said, one major draw for EV battery swapping going mainstream is charging times. According to the RAC, the time spent charging an EV ranges from as little as 15 minutes when using an ultra-rapid 350kW charger to as much as 24 hours when relying on a domestic plug. Either way, a three-minute pit stop is the winner.