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Roger Arnold's picture
Director Silverthorn Institute

Roger Arnold is a former software engineer and systems architect. He studied physics, math, and chemistry at Michigan State University's Honors College. After graduation, he worked in...

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  • Jul 29, 2021

I had been under the impression that since the failure of Shai Agassi's Better Place, battery swapping for electric vehicles was dead. Not so, it seems. It's apparently alive and on the rise in China and India. The key to its success there: the government's willingness to set standards for the swapping interface for any manufacturer who wants to participate. The video I've linked is to an information-rich episode of Youtube channel Just Have a Think.

A major advantage of battery swapping -- beyond really fast "refueling" -- is that the swapping station holds a lot of partially-depleted storage capacity that doesn't have to be quickly recharged. It plays well with intermittent renewables and places less demand on electrical infrastructure than fast-charging stations.


Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 29, 2021

Battery swapping has always been an intriguing concept, and it's always seem inevitable that someone would figure it out-- as it's obviously very logistically complex. The latest tech I read about that was intriguing was the idea that batteries could be filled with modular 'balls' that carry the charge that can be sucked up and replaced with ease

That said, the idea that battery swapping stations would be a good resource for grid-tied energy storage while those batteries aren't in use/demand by EVs is a great point and can really tilt the economics in the right direction with the grid services it would provide..

Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Jul 29, 2021

Great video - very interesting concept.  The issue will be the infrastructure having enough swap stations available.  Great for inner-city areas but may be tough in suburbs or more remote areas especially if they all have different batteries types.  This makes me think of the smartphone power cords.  Every company has its own cord type.  

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Aug 1, 2021

BEVs for urban motorist do pose a serious problem; maybe battery swapping will be a viable solution.  Or maybe not; this technology has some major impediments.

I was initially impressed by the battery swap stations for scooters (wherein the swapping mechanism is the scooter owner who manually transfers the batteries to/fro a big vending machine).  Then I remembered that even apartment dwellers can carry the battery home for charging.  I guess that is a similar use case to suburban public car chargers in America: used only occasionally to supplement home charging.

A major issue for potential buyers will be the availability (convenient location & short wait time) of swap stations.  And this will be hard to predict over the life of the vehicle.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 2, 2021

BEVs for urban motorist do pose a serious problem

What are the problems you see for the urban motorist? I would think it the opposite-- in cities BEVs can work more easily because you're driving shorter distances and lower speeds, starting and stopping, and the density of public chargers makes it easier to find one. Conversely in more remote locations, you have to driver longer distances on a more regular basis and it's harder to make the economics work to have as many public chargers available as those drivers may need. 

I know for apartment dwellers in cities, you don't always have a garage they can park in and plug in like in the suburbs, so I think that's what you're talking about? But if these drivers are taking their EVs to and from work, they can often charge there. And if they're not doing that, then their miles are likely low enough that simply plugging in at public chargers occasionally can be enough to keep them juiced

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Aug 3, 2021

Good points; I guess urban isn't the big concern for BEVs.  But once you move past homeowners with garage-kept vehicles, then the challenges begin.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 3, 2021

Very true-- for EV incentives that have long been lampooned as subsidies for the rich, adding on the likelihood you need to own a home rather than rent is just more to add to that pile. 

Roger Arnold's picture
Thank Roger for the Post!
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