Battery Swapping Details Incoming
Awaiting a battery swapping announcement from an industry leader.
The scaling of the rechargeable battery industry is critical for ensuring the world adopts sustainable renewable energy habits. Supply chain issues impacting the lithium and related metals industries is putting a strain on electric vehicle adoption as vehicles become more expensive. Battery recycling has been touted as a solution for re-using and/or harvesting critical minerals from aging batteries. But before the world has a fully robust lithium ion battery recycling program some are considering a unique strategy.
While electric vehicles can be charged at charging stations, home residences, and even restaurants/businesses, some companies in China have considered battery swapping technologies as an alternative. Battery swapping enables a quick removal and insertion of a fresh fully-charged battery into vehicles. The company Nio can be considered a leader in the space given that they announced the battery swap station in 2017 before Western companies were fully behind electric vehicles.
A driver pulls into a battery swap station and within five minutes the existing battery is removed and replaced with a new one. Since some of the fastest charging commercial vehicles on the road charge from 0%-80% SoC in about 15 minutes this could be an interesting alternative. The swap station also introduces a business case to electric vehicle ownership by alleviating the MSRP price. Owners can lease the battery through a Battery-as-a-Service program which saves money on the upfront purchase price. The image below from Nio's website shows the potential savings breakdown for each vehicle model.
It’s an interesting take, but with cars lasting longer and longer as a result of improved batteries and battery management systems is the battery swap technology necessary?
A pending battery swapping announcement could suggest an even bigger future in mainland China. One of the leaders in LFP battery production will host an event detailing their plans for battery swapping. The event is scheduled to stream on Youtube January 18th at 3:30pm, Beijing time. For those in the United States, that would be January 17th at 2:30am EST, 11:30PM PST.
The CATL Battery Swapping Event was announced on January 15th by CNEVPOST.
What does it mean for Industry?
This raises a multitude of questions for all parties curious about keeping up with the scaling of the EV industry.
Policy reform - One of the main concerns is electric vehicle charging. Western companies have announced initiatives from the government to expand investment in EV charging infrastructure. There currently is no company that has commercialized the battery swapping station in the US or Europe.
Today there is no standardized lithium ion battery for electric vehicles. Chemistries, form factors, battery management systems, and controls change from vehicle to vehicle. For an efficient battery swapping station to work one would suspect that a standard rectangular shape could be an optimal format. A properly programmed robot could locate the respective parts for a seamless battery removal and re-insertion.
This is also related to policy. Is the Western world committed to an electric vehicle charging network. Do swapping stations have a role in the existing layout in urban cities and designs? How does it impact the electrical grid?
The live-stream event from CATL is much anticipated, because it is implying credence to battery swapping as a sustainable way to grow the electric vehicle business. Currently Nio offers a Battery-as-a-Service program where the owner does not physically own the lithium ion battery powering the vehicle. The battery is leased which alleviates any stress on the owner and introduces a more affordable initial purchase price. This business model could help EV adoption reach the masses during this potentially prolonged lithium supply-demand crunch. The pivot away from internal combustion engines is picking up rapidly, but now the focus could also be on the infrastructure needed to power the battery. The world awaits.