China Loves Battery Swapping EVs, But Will They Ever Make It Here?

Electric vehicles promise efficiency gains over their gas-fuelled predecessors, but the issue of recharging remains a hurdle for many eager to jump on board with the technology. The problem is only magnified for those that regularly street park their vehicles or live in apartments, without provision to charge a vehicle overnight at home.

Battery swapping promises to solve that issue, letting drivers of EVs change out their empty battery for a freshly charged one in a matter of minutes. The technology has been widely panned and failed to gain traction in the US.

However, as it turns out, battery swapping for EVs is actually thing in China, and it’s catching on at a rapid rate.

It’s Already Happening

Nio’s cars reverse in to the stations, and a machine swaps out the battery from underneath. [Getty Images]
While pilot programs from companies like Tesla and Better Place faltered quickly almost a decade ago, the industry in China has been picking up steam. In 2019, the only real players were the Chinese companies Nio and BAIC Motor Co, but since then, many others have flooded in for a piece of the action.

The current state of play has Nio at the head of the pack, with the automaker seeing its 700th battery swap station installed in December. 5.3 million battery swaps have been completed using the company’s facilities, indicating that the stations are seeing plenty of use. 258 Nio vehicles are on the road for every battery swap station out there, and reportedly 42% of Nio owners live within a 3 km radius of such a facility. The company hopes to expand to 4000 battery swap stations by 2025, including 1000 outside China.

The Nio system is highly automated, and driving a Nio car up to the battery swap facility will automatically place the vehicle in the queue. Upon arrival at one of the company’s 2.0 swap machines, the car will drive itself into the swap bay, though some manual adjustment is sometimes necessary at the direction of the human attendants. The version 2.0 installations store up to thirteen batteries, versus just five in the earlier 1.0 swap station design. The driver can also stay inside the car, something the 1.0 and other company’s chargers don’t always allow.

In a real-world test, one YouTuber found the swap took 5 minutes and 25 seconds once the car was in the bay, not counting the two minutes spent waiting for another car to leave and getting the vehicle lined up correctly. As demonstrated in a Nio demo video, robotic carriage slides under the car, unbolting the pack, removing it, and slotting in a fresh battery to send the driver on their way.

Early battery swap solutions often required human intervention, such as this Zotye M300 EV receiving a changeover in 2014. Most modern networks aim to automate the process for savings in cost and time, and to minimize mistakes. Credit: Gavin Anderson, CC-BY-SA-2.0

There are more pedestrian battery swap stations out there two; automotive outlet Jalopnik recently reported on one small, ramshackle operation that swapped out batteries for just 45 Yuan, or roughly $7 USD, good for a further 95 miles of range or so, and changed over in around three minutes. Taxi drivers are a key customer for the facility, who don’t want to spend time charging when they could be out earning fares.

One factor that has helped to spur the adoption of battery swapping is government policy. The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has been experimenting with subsidies. Presently, only electric vehicles priced under 300,000 Yuan, or roughly $42,377 USD, get a subsidy from the government. That is, unless they employ battery swapping, in which case there is no limit.

More investment is flooding in as companies like battery manufacturer CATL and automotive giant Geely have started vying for a piece of the action. BAIC Motor and several other associated companies like Aulton have hundreds of swap stations of their own, too, leading the latter to take on a partnership with global petroleum giant BP.

Will It Catch On Everywhere?

The various companies currently doing a roaring trade in China solved the biggest challenges around battery swapping. Thousands, if not millions of vehicles are being built with compatible battery architectures, at least amongst the various major corporate alliances selling vehicles in China. Big investment is making sure that there are batteries and swap stations available where people need them, and business models are being crafted to suit.

The latter is a big part of making battery swapping work. In most parts of the world, a electric vehicle is sold with a battery. That battery is a huge expensive component that is crucial to the range and performance of the vehicle. The idea of swapping out a “good” battery for someone else’s nasty one turns many off from the idea of battery swapping. However, when battery swapping is the primary model, it ceases to matter. A bad battery with lower performance can just be readily swapped for another good one with a minimum of fuss. Batteries that fall outside of proper performance specs can also be removed from circulation by the system operator and can be recycled as needed.

Nio’s Battery as a Service (BaaS) model is a popular one; consumers can subscribe to a 100 kWh battery plan for roughly $223 USD a month. This allows them to swap in the biggest batteries Nio has available at its swap stations for maximum range, and also allows those purchasing a Nio car to save on the order of $19,000 on the purchase price of the car, as they’re not paying to own the battery itself. As newer, better batteries come along that fit in the same form factor, users can change their subscription to suit and unlock more range for their cars.

Can It Work Outside of China?

However, plenty of roadblocks stand in the way of battery swapping catching on in places like the USA and Europe. In these markets, automakers are competing to build electric cars with the longest possible ranges as a primary competitive advantage. These companies have no desire to create a common specification for battery form factors to allow them to be swapped between different makes and models. Thus far, there’s been little collaboration on charger specs, let alone batteries themselves. Furthermore, to achieve the best in range, performance, weight, and handling of their vehicles, companies have heavily integrated the packs into the design of the vehicles themselves. Easily swapping these batteries is by and large out of the question.

Ample is a US-based startup that hopes to roll out a battery-swapping system to fleet operations initially. Credit: Ample

Furthermore, many EVs on the market today boast ranges in excess of 250 miles; some go as far as double that at as we’ve recently reported. Charge times are coming down too, with many vehicles able to add hundreds of miles of range in under 20 minutes when fast charging. This compares relatively favorably with the 5-7 minute times that most battery swap systems seem to take, while adding a similar amount of range, given the smaller packs often used in swap-capable vehicles.

Longer range EVs need charging less often, and thus taking an extra ten minutes to gain some serious range doesn’t really cause a lot of fuss. In the case of cars like the Lucid Air with over 500 miles of range, most people would want to take a nice long break after so much driving, such that waiting a few more minutes for a charge is hardly considered an imposition at all.

With charging infrastructure already rolling out at a rapid pace in Europe and the USA, and few to no vehicles available that are suitable for battery swaps, it seems like the technology may not catch on in these areas. Fast chargers already have a huge lead in the market and will work with a much broader range of vehicles; no overarching battery swap architecture can compete in that regard.

Some startups are working on the problem, like Ample, but the offering isn’t anywhere near as capable as that already up and running in China. At best, the company offers modified Nissan Leaf vehicles with range shorter than contemporaries like the Tesla Model 3, with battery swap times demonstrated last year on the order of 15 minutes, with the company claiming it’s close to getting it down to ten. Ample says it’s working with 5 of the 10 biggest automakers in the world on battery swapping, but won’t name who; meanwhile, there’s been nary a peep from any major players on such collaboration.

Unless non-Chinese automakers are forced by some kind of regulation to implement battery swap technology, it seems unlikely that companies like Tesla, GM and Lucid would tear up ten years of future product plans and give away their competitive advantages to embrace the idea. Similarly, there is little will to give up on fast charger rollouts, which require little more than power supply, to drop in larger-footprint swap stations with their more complicated robotic systems that cost more to buy, install and maintain.

Regardless, the technology has found a strong foothold in China, and may yet do so in other markets around the world. Regional differences have always added spice and interest to the global automotive scene, and it seems battery swapping will be one such case going forward!

122 thoughts on “China Loves Battery Swapping EVs, But Will They Ever Make It Here?

  1. I haven’t owned one yet but to me what sounds most appealing about an electric car is plugging it in to charge at home in the evening when I’m not driving so that I don’t have to stop at any sort of refill station during the day.

      1. Maybe take a page from wireless cell phone charging? Have to decouple greed from the save the planet plan however. Overall, battery swapping, reminiscent of a gas station, seems like an actual move forward.

        1. It’s only slightly reminiscent of a gas station. Imagine if gas stations had to swap out your gas tank. “Sorry, we only have tanks for GM models less than five years old, here. Try Old Joe’s gas station on the other side of town.” Keep in mind that some of the recent advances in driving range have come from integrating the batteries into the car’s structure to fit more batteries and save weight, so unless you have a standard model car that many manufacturers build, so that the structure can become a standard, battery swapping is going to cost you in range and weight.

          1. If it takes about the same time to swap a battery than to fill a tank, you can indeed compare it to a gas station. This might be what could help ‘sell’ electric vehicles. I think many are apprehensive because it isn’t really known how this would Impact the average person in their average day to day operations. If it could be made comparable to a system that already exists, like a gas station, some of those apprehensions might just go away. If some of these issues aren’t addressed, my opinion is EV will have to be forced on people, which is never a good thing. A much better way is to carry the general public along, justnot kicking and screaming. I think the hurdle is, always was and will be, business models, unless something fairly drastic happens in the form of ‘changes’.

          2. Not sure why you responded, since you clearly missed the entire point. It’s not about how long it takes to change a battery, but about how unlikely it is that there will ever be a standard battery. Manufacturers don’t even maintain compatibility from one year to the next within the same model of car, much less across models or across manufacturers. Getting makers to agree on a single or even a few battery module designs is about as likely as having them build engines that are interchangeable with each other. And it’s not just about the batteries, either: the charging systems, DC/DC converters, cooling systems, and control systems have to evolve with the batteries. Has battery technology matured to the point where it is even POSSIBLE to get this kind of interchangeability? Not even close, nor will it be for decades. So unless you have the latest model THAT IS SUPPORTED, you’re not even going to be able to USE these battery swap stations. Which happens both at the beginning of a model’s life cycle and at the end. The logistics required to get the new models of batteries into stock at the changing stations for new car models are going to be a major thing, due to the costs and manufacturing backlogs. And also because of the cost, stations will want to get rid of older battery models as quickly as possible, so used car buyers had better not be apartment dwellers. If you have either the latest model or an older car, your battery is NOT going to be available at all change stations. There will be an app on your car’s computer that tells you where the nearest compatible battery is, which if you’re lucky, will be closer than the range you have left on your current one.

          3. Chris: Electric cars WILL be forced on people. That is inevitable. It will become more expensive to register vehicles, and gas stations will start to disappear as the demand for liquid fuel, um, evaporates. So if there aren’t charging solutions, they will be left without personal transportation, above the level of e-bikes.

          4. That’s why battery and connector standards should’ve been federally mandated years ago. To address your valid point about battery volume being integrated into the car’s structure, the regulations could have required only a subset of total battery to be in a standardized brick-like form; this would have provided people the rarely-needed option to drive cross-country in (for example) 150-mile increments.

      2. I assume the “street parkers” go places in their cars. Many shops and car parks have chargers. You can plug it in while you go shopping (or whatever). That costs you no extra time at all.

        Maybe even deliberately go and charge it somewhere once per week, just like going to the gas station.

        1. If you think that “there’s always somewhere you can go to charge your car”, you don’t understand the problem. This isn’t like charging your cell phone, which costs less than a penny. Charging a car involves having a reliable place to exchange a significant amount of money for a significant amount of energy, and the store you need to go to doesn’t necessarily provide this service. If I’m an apartment dweller, I need to know that I can get that power when I need it, or there’s no point in having a car.

      1. Ultimately I don’t think that is really going to prove true – at worst you will end up, when you finally need a battery replacement, a compatible electrically pack (or cluster of little packs) and a little bit of mechanical work on your car to make ’em fit – same as changing to a different engine means a little welding fitting new mounts…

        (remember on the whole batteries are getting both more energy dense and able to handle higher current so a smaller physical battery for the same sort of electrical specs is likely – and with the scale of EV battery just getting 0.2% smaller leaves you lots of room to make one or two shapes of ‘universal’ battery that just need the right mounting frame to attach them in the place of the old one)

        But with how long battery EV battery are lasting lifetime wise, for most models a properly shaped off the shelf drop in replacement is probably going to be available by then – in all those years time there will be enough demand for packs that can be put in your x to be worth companies making compatibles (not to mention the original maker isn’t likely to charge you too stupid an amount for an official one as they would far rather get some further profit out of the car they sold years ago than loose out to the 3rd party)

        1. “a compatible electrically pack (or cluster of little packs) and a little bit of mechanical work on your car to make ’em fit”

          Yeah, no. First, that would only happen at a third-party place. Obviously Nissan’s not gonna be glomming Nissan cells in a Tesla. And then the problem there is that third-party places won’t be able to get the cells in a matched setup (because the cell manufacturers don’t sell to them), which means they won’t work as well.

          You already see this happening with EVs – third-party battery places often no longer try to replace/rebalance cells, they just replace the whole pack because they just end up with too many problems otherwise.

          And that’s completely ignoring the fact that pack geometry (number of cells in series/parallel) is totally different between manufacturers and the cooling setup is different too.

          Battery replacement’s got a *massive* way to go.

          1. I did start with an ultimately – we are not there yet, and was talking about the whole battery unit(s) – individual lithium cell swaps are going to be impractical or even impossible to do non-destructively on many EV battery anyway with the way they are constructed, so just pull the whole unit and replace, which is pretty much what all vehicle maintenance is now – need a tiny seal/washer/screw/gasket you must buy the whole assembly its from!!! (or make your own).

            And like with any popular laptop/phone in the era of the easy replacement battery you will see 3rd party ones – the value of the rest of the vehicle is way more than enough to justify even a serious replacement cost so there will be profits to be made, and there are more than enough EV out there now to create the demand, in some years time when more than bugger all of them actually start needing replacement batteries…

            And it really doesn’t matter what the makes are doing with their battery packs if you are ripping it out and putting in a new one – cooling is largely if not entirely built in to the pack, number of cells is largely irrelevant too – as I understand it most makes if not all have the BMC in the battery pack which means any variation of cell geometry doesn’t matter to anything outside the battery pack as long as the overall output is in the correct range as its the battery managing itself and communicating its state to the rest of the cars computers and even when its the cars primary computer managing battery states you can just plug in the other IC in the path that tells the primary computer whatever it needs to hear while doing its own work converting what the car was built to expect to the new physical reality…

            Also I really don’t see why Nissan/Tesla etc won’t actively work to make it possible to use their packs in other EV when it doesn’t really cost them anything much and makes them more money selling the spare parts (at least once the battery factories and lithium supplies are sufficient to produce an excess over their internal demand for their own new cars – infact folks building classic car EV conversions frequently reuse a crashed EV battery or buy new Tesla packs but often enough only the battery with entirely new electronics everywhere else – which kind of proves a battery is just a battery with a little bit of work, what a shocker…

          2. Laptop batteries are not EV batteries. I mean, not even close. You’re talking about a handful of cells operating at pathetic discharge rates compared to hundreds at high discharge. If laptop cells aren’t matched, it doesn’t do a dang thing.

            If you could get them to standardize bus voltages, sure, maybe. But not with them all over the place.

          3. It really doesn’t matter Pat, a battery is battery, and with the specs in hand its easy enough to make a compatible unit, and you are going to replace the whole damn unit – every bloody cell at once (because with how they are put together the very best you might get is replacing 1/3 or so total capacity at a time – these battery tend to be a single huge monolith maybe a few large clusters). Which means you will go from a pack that probably has a few wonky cells bringing it down to the brand new pack that should be all perfectly set up for another few hundred thousand miles…

            And that old pack probably just gets used till its really dead as bulk static energy storage, then broken up and recycled – they are not designed to come apart for fiddling around replacing the individual cells its very much all or nothing with the need for an EV pack to be very strong, very light, and very energy dense to be good they are not meant for repairs to the pack, just replace the damn thing.

            Yes there will need to be more than one spec/size/shape to suit every possible EV model out there, but as those batteries start failing only the really unpopular ones are going to be potentially out of luck finding a drop in compatible replacement – there is far too much money to be made offering off the shelf drop in battery when the demand actually picks up as the current crop of batteries start wearing out.

          4. “It really doesn’t matter Pat, a battery is battery,”

            This is just… not even close to right. Trying to get, say, 10-20 cells balanced for a device that’s going to discharge at *at most* a fraction of 1C and charge at maybe a few C is just totally different than trying to balance hundreds of cells that need to handle 10C+ charge/discharge rates.

            I can rebuild a laptop battery pack with random cells bought from who knows where. Try to do that on an EV with fast charging and it’ll start throwing errors in no time.

            Like I said, there’s a reason why many third-party EV battery replacement places have stopped trying to cobble new packs together from cells.

          5. Who said anything about cobble together?

            My whole point is as the demand grows, which it will in a few years as the current generations start to wear out, you will just be able to buy a BRAND NEW compatible battery – the whole damn thing! At least for the common popular EV models, so all you have to do is dismantle car enough to remove and swap in.

            And most likely you will also be able to get more universal fit brand new battery that just need the a frame to handle the mechanical connection to the different models, which will also work in those niche EV that are not worth tooling up a specific replacement battery – as these battery tend to have the cooling, battery management etc built in to the battery – so as long as you are able to be electrically in the right ballpark it doesn’t need to be identical to the factory config – which really means anything goes as long as it can provide enough – which is why crashed EV battery can get mated to all sorts of classic cars with completely different electronics from the original EV…

          6. “which it will in a few years as the current generations start to wear out, you will just be able to buy a BRAND NEW compatible battery – the whole damn thing! ”

            Yes. From the manufacturer. For the manufacturer’s price.

            “And most likely you will also be able to get more universal fit brand new battery that just need the a frame to handle the mechanical connection ”

            How?! All of the manufacturers use different cell electrical arrangements, including inside their own different vehicles, which means the only “universal” bit among them is the individual cell. Which service stations are not going to build packs out of.

            *If* you managed to get EV companies to standardize on some module-level arrangement, then you’d see some benefit. But why would they do this? They don’t want to make it easy to replace their car batteries. They want to make it *hard*.

            Tesla Model 3s have two different types of modules, two each of 90V, two each of 86V. The Model S has 16 21.5V modules. Lucid modules are 37V. There’s no standardization whatsoever. There’s no way to get economies of scale across manufacturers.

            Could you basically use some “standard” module to get whatever required bus voltage and capacity you need? You’d then have to spoof the module comms to make it “look” like what the car expects, and golly gee, pretty dang sure the manufacturer will lock that down quickly claiming safety.

            Plus you’ve also now added buckets of work for the 3rd party manufacturers – not only do they need mounting brackets specific to each car, they’ll need hardware and software specific to each car. And there’s no guarantee it’d *keep* working, either.

            The only way this situation gets fixed is with standardization, and that’ll almost certainly require laws.

          7. And why should the growing demand for Tesla model x or the BMW electric model y etc be any different from the previous demand for the massively different laptop/phone battery with the unique designs and shape – no reason at all, its a battery you can build to be compatible easily enough.

            And as far as the EV is concerned as long as the battery outputs something close its fine – in the case you list of two different pack sizes rated for a rather similar but different voltage the electronics are going to be basically identical – that 90v battery doesn’t mean I only every output 90v, it means my cut off voltage is something significantly under 90v, and quite probably the max voltage is actually a little over that 90v – basically the same range as that 86v, and if you build your ‘universal’ cells to be something like 20v each you can wire as many of them together to get into the right voltage range as you need for the EV in question – and that range will be pretty wide, not to mention you can always loose a tiny tiny fraction of the energy putting a stepdown in the new battery assembly if that is really needed (which it shouldn’t be as the EV has to deal with drooping battery voltages as part of its normal life the range of good voltage inputs will be pretty wide).

          8. “And why should the growing demand for Tesla model x or the BMW electric model y etc be any different from the previous demand for the massively different laptop/phone battery with the unique designs and shape ”

            Because for those, you *can* build those out of individual cells and the charge/discharge rates are so pathetic that you can just cheap out and do very simplistic monitoring. Laptop batteries don’t have cell balancing mechanisms, for instance. They don’t care. It doesn’t matter. The battery’s not going to blow up if one cell’s a tenth of a degree C hotter.

            “And as far as the EV is concerned as long as the battery outputs something close its fine”

            When I say “90V” and “86V” I don’t actually mean ‘voltage’ I mean 23 cell and 24 cell. 21.5V is really 6 cell, 37 is 10 cell, etc.

            And lithium ion voltage cutoffs are *very* tight. The difference between 23 cell charging and 24 cell charging would blow one of them up.

            “and if you build your ‘universal’ cells to be something like 20v each you can wire as many of them together to get into the right voltage range”

            Uh. No. The ECU talks to modules individually. Unless you’re spoofing the communication (which, again, would have to be model and possibly firmware specific) that won’t work.

            And even then, it’s trivial for an EV manufacturer to tell if you’re lying to it unless you’re *really* faking things.

          9. From what i’ve seen Pat nearly all the smarts are in the batteries themselves – which means you only have to provide to the Car the right ballpark and perhaps spoof a little signalling so its range calculations etc can be correct – it really doesn’t matter at all what the battery is set up as as long as it is close enough in output current and voltage to be in the spec range of the original battery or original electronics limits. And even when the cars main computer does it all its not that hard to either spoof it so you can build what you want or build a electrically similar package to the point the car need not know its not the original.

            Also lots of laptop batteries had cell balancing, as well as sometimes onboard voltage regulators and many other wacky options out there – the challenge of building a 3rd party laptop battery to a 3rd party car battery is basically identical – match the specs well enough.

            With a car some more care around charge rate and cooling as you are right you can’t get away with lower quality as much as you can in lower power devices, crash resistance for the structure too, but its not some mystically impossible black art to duplicate the battery pack of an X. So the 3rd parties will and keep doing it probably for a decade or two longer than the original maker too – as in some years time there will be thousands of the popular Tesla (mostly in the US) and in the rest of the ‘free’ world the Japanese and European EV models wanting replacements, and probably at least ten times more for each model a few years after that as uptake on EV’s as a new car keeps growing rather fast – its more than enough to be worth tooling up to make your 3rd party battery.

          10. “From what i’ve seen Pat nearly all the smarts are in the batteries themselves –”

            Absolutely not! Go read the software people use for Tesla Model S batteries in offline situations. Every module reports every individual cell’s voltage. Every. One. The *vehicle* BMS monitors those.

            “And even when the cars main computer does it all its not that hard to either spoof it”

            It’s “not that hard” to spoof it? How the heck can you say that? You don’t have control of the other end, and the car manufacturer does – and in some cases it’s *networked*! You literally have no ability to know what you’re supposed to say and it could change at any time. Tesla’s changed battery charge/discharge behavior multiple times already.

            This is totally different than the reverse case (pretending to be the *car*) because those modules aren’t networked at all. Sure, Tesla might change protocols or behavior at some point, but as long as they don’t encrypt, it’s a one time issue. You’re not in a race.

            “Also lots of laptop batteries had cell balancing, as well as sometimes onboard voltage regulators and many other wacky options out there”

            Usually using *off the shelf* ICs that they can just *buy*. Not a moving target like the actual software of the vehicle.

            “as in some years time there will be thousands of the popular Tesla (mostly in the US) and in the rest of the ‘free’ world the Japanese and European EV models wanting replacements,”

            Yes. Absolutely. And you know who’s going to provide them? Tesla. Sure, others might *want* to provide them, but Tesla is 100% capable of *preventing* that, and they absolutely can argue that it’s for good reason.

          11. To be clear, the primary smarts *can’t* be in the modules. When a fault occurs, you need to shut off the current flow, which means you need control of the primary contacts, and the vehicle BMS has control over that.

          12. Pat where the BMS is located is the question and from what I have seen the vehicles BMS is built in or at least adjacent the battery unit – it would almost certainly be changed when you change the pack – as with the way they are built you really wouldn’t have a choice in the matter. I presume because it means it can do whatever it needs to even after a crash that might sever data links to other computers in the car.

            Yes Tesla might try to be DRM arseholes about it, but that isn’t really working out for JD tractors is it? Not only are the farmers flat out ignoring the requirements when known hacks exist but it sounds to me like even where JD was once the only brand to buy folks are voting with the wallets and importing less obnoxious machines… Plus Elon does not seem likely to pursue such a goal – his companies are always running full tilt at the next barrier I doubt fighting to own the repairs of their ‘legacy’ products will be much on their roadmap. Most likely the software on those vehicles will be like the older model android phone – abandoned and most certainly not a moving target anymore…

            Also EV’s are far more than just Tesla, so while one brand or other might be arseholes with so many to choose from and folks having to buy EV – as by law nothing else will be sold in the near future (perhaps even in your area around the same time the current EV are in need of new battery, but probably just a little longer than that) that is really bad marketing wise (at least if they don’t make the replacement battery very very cheap compared to their less locked down rivals including the 3rd party offerings – which they are not likely to do, as where is the profit for them in selling it cheap) – so most likely one of them will try it, get hit by all the bad press and everyone ends up not buying their new EV but their more ‘friendly’ competitor because they ‘know’ they can keep it on the road for a long time at a sane price, or that when they are done with it the resale value will remain high. Which hurts the only thing the company care about, their money, so they will suddenly start playing nice.

          13. “Pat where the BMS is located is the question and from what I have seen the vehicles BMS is built in or at least adjacent the battery unit – it would almost certainly be changed when you change the pack”

            Okay, I literally have no idea what you’re talking about anymore. So now third party manufacturers are going to build not only compatible cells for vehicles, but compatible BMSes as well.

            Yeah. I’ll believe that when I see it.

            “Yes Tesla might try to be DRM arseholes about it, but that isn’t really working out”

            It’s not DRM. Tesla builds the battery packs, they know how they’re supposed to behave. If they don’t behave that way, of course they’re not going to allow them to charge at *their own* high-current chargers. It’d be an insurance nightmare if they didn’t.

            This isn’t a new story. Just look up people’s attempts to rebuild Tesla packs and the outcomes. It doesn’t work for long. The onboard BMS freaks out usually after less than a year. Plus Tesla doesn’t even *need* to make it “DRM” – you just pull the Coca-Cola trick and be the only manufacturer of the cells used in your EV! Literally every other manufacturer’s cells will perform differently.

            Tesla, specifically, is a fully vertically integrated setup. No one’s going to be able to break their effective monopoly, and because there are *real advantages* to being fully integrated like this (in terms of performance, range, and charging time).

            Other manufacturers *might* be able to band together to be more compatible. In some ways they have. But they will have real, limiting consequences, and so in some sense there’s pressure *against* it.

            “so most likely one of them will try it, get hit by all the bad press and everyone ends up not buying their new EV”

            It won’t be bad press! The third party modules *won’t be able to function the same*. It’ll be trivial for Tesla to set up a demonstration as to what happens with third-party battery modules because “they can’t use genuine Tesla cells.”

          14. Pretty much Pat, when the third party replacements start to be tooled up they will replace everything needed in the car. Its not all that hard to do properly if you really want to – and there is enough money to be made when many of these cars are starting to run out to make it possible.

            Remember these modern motors are almost all computers everywhere – even the damn light units are not controlled by a switch directly but by a serial command – you only have to speak to the rest of the cars computers in the right language – your Tesla showing the state of each cell in the battery is not the computer tablet thing you view it on doing any of the work to create that data, its just displaying what its sent by the BMS, which from what I’ve seen is usually integral to the batteries themselves – one big structure (or collection of them) with the cooling, management and battery cells all in their little ‘crash proof’ box – and all effectively therefore up for replacement at the same time when the cells get too old – its a whole unit replacement at end of life. Maybe the BMS gets to stay if its not built in, but its just as likely to be replaced (or rejigged) to account for any variation in the battery – its the only bit of the Car that cares about the nitty gritty details of the battery all the rest just needs to know that x is available.

            I have no doubt if the big EV makers produce replacements at anything like a reasonable cost the third parties won’t spin up the production lines, but as they are bound to charge quite a bit extra (which of course is partly because they are going to provide warranties, but also just because they can) the third party battery is very likely. The problem most people are having with battery replacements now is that it is a bodge job gerry rigging new bits onto old packs that were never meant to be opened up at all – because a more properly engineered spare is currently hard to get (what a shocker when the makers are putting all the batteries they make straight into new cars and still wishing they could make more – the demand (and profit) is there, the demand for replacements is damn nearly zero).

            And your 3rd party replacement battery if it exists will be functionally identical (maybe even better – seen that before in some electronics) so the Tesla charger would have no way of knowing its not, without a DRM style lockout saying this battery doesn’t have the right secret handshake so bugger off… The charger talks to the car, car states its needs, charger provides (if able) – without DRM type buggering in there or in the car itself somewhere its all just plugging into a wall socket level of a battery is battery – yes these are big high power batteries, but its still just a battery.

          15. Check out dp cars .net

            Dennis Palatov, he is affiliated with an open battery standard that aims to provide a full voltage mini pack, and then add them in parallel until the desired range/performance is reached.

            If there is going to be universal style replacement packs that might be a good way to do it (:

          16. “Pretty much Pat, when the third party replacements start to be tooled up they will replace everything needed in the car. Its not all that hard to do properly”

            I’m absolutely baffled by the fact that you think this will happen. This stuff is *networked* on a Tesla. They can, and have, changed battery draw/charging parameters *remotely*.

            You seem to rely on “it has to happen, there will be too many people demanding it” – but you’re expecting a *smooth* transition. I’m not. I’m expecting an *extremely rough* one. Yes, they’ll demand it, but no one’s going to be able to supply it affordably.

          17. So what that Tesla have changed parameter remotely, its trivial to do the same in the third party pack if you really want to, or you can just ignore those instruction as the BMS that manages the battery is under your control – all it HAS to do is inform the car of the current limits, charge level and then provide the demand, the Human interface layer of pedals and steering doesn’t care what the battery is or isn’t doing, the motor controller and regenerative braking only care if they can sink/source as much as they expect, all these little bits make up a unified whole but are very very unlikely to be bothered by changes (or ignored changes) to other parts – as long as they all keep speaking the same language between each other – and changing that isn’t at all likely.

            Also all the parts in a Tesla (and pretty much any other vehicle) are predominately if not entirely off the shelf electronics put on custom circuit boards – its not hard to duplicate that PCB, and even in the cases where its a custom built special run silicon a functionally identical or exact duplicate will end up existing, as it does with all popular silicon – just have to hope the knockoffs are built up to spec.

    1. Any method that gives consumers more choice about buying and/or maintaining a product or service results competition, which in-turn results in products and/or services that are less expensive and more efficient. That is common sense, and where competition is not suppressed, history proves it works.

      Lack of freedom and competition is why in the U.S. for example, these days it has becoming almost impossible for me to shop for parts and use them by myself to repair my car. Even if I can buy a spare part these days, like a sensor, if the car is less than 20-30 years old it’s very unlikely I will be able to install it without access to some ridiculously over-priced proprietary computerized device running secret software. And oh yes, I’ll need expensive specialized “training” to use the device and I must pay recurring fees for a certification (i.e. a password) to use the device.

      My bypassing the specialized proprietary device needed to service my car or using it without “certification” in the U.S. will likely constitute a violation of DMCA laws, which may result in prosecution, fines, and/or jail time. In my opinion these lock-out (or lock-in) practices when it comes to consumer products should be illegal. I bought my car, I own it, I am NOT perpetually renting it!

    1. I assume as the Chinese are not terrible engineers* that the fasteners are captive on the battery and a ‘wear’ part, made deliberately the weaker link so every time the battery is dropped off at the charge station it can be inspected and easily replaced – few cheap latches every nth swap or on noticeable damage should give you many many cycles cheaply, as long as you don’t cut corners on the inspections or initial build quality too far.

      *(on the whole – they might ship out lots of shoddy junk at budget prices, and accept lower quality than we would, but they do know how to make something workable)

      1. They’re not terrible engineers, but the engineering culture is “Do as your superior says, even when they’re wrong. Don’t embarrass your betters. Don’t question decisions made higher up.”

        1. On a personal note, I could tell an anecdote of what the Chinese consider as “calibration”: rebuilding the instrument to introduce errors until the output agrees with what a venerable professor wrote it should be. When you question “Why do you assume this material property is exactly that? Surely it varies and has to be measured!” – the answer was: “You go read book!”.

          The reason is that in “democratic centralism”, decisions are binding and not to be criticized until the action is completed. If someone below refuses to do as told, it is “sabotage”. Then when the action is completed and it turns out badly, all the people higher up start looking for people lower down to blame for it. If someone didn’t do exactly as told, the failure is pinned on them.

          1. Your second paragraph is superficially indistinguishable from Western models and methods. Here, if someone below refuses to do as told, it is “willfulness”, “not being a team player”, “dereliction of duty”. Then when the action is completed and it turns out badly, all the people higher up start looking for people lower down to blame for it. If someone didn’t do exactly as told, the failure is pinned on them.

            Elon Musk will never be fired for a deadly battery fire or “Full Self-driving” massacre, but some engineer will be sacrificed on the altar of blame, accountability, and “optics”.

          2. Yes, however, in the west it’s not literally the law of the land.

            Democratic centralism is a organization of rule where everyone in power is technically voted in, and they vote the people higher up in, but all the decisions at the top level are binding and you HAVE to obey or else you’re a saboteur. It’s supposed to be a two-step process of discussion and then unquestioning action, as opposed to constantly changing tact, but in reality it’s just a way to vote in dictators at every level, from the company to the state.

        2. Indeed China’s culture doesn’t lend itself to flexibility, development or quality overall – questions and experimentation might end up being annoying to the boss but they can easily lead to improvements too.

          But for something this simple even a rather shoddy engineer should get the design right – its not a challenging problem, one that should have so long ago been solved that its just apply the existing method and they do have many perfectly good engineering minds.

  2. The issue of long battery-charging times is quite short-term in nature. With the various advances in EV energy storage systems coming (eg: so-called “solid state” batteries), the amount of time it takes to fill the EV “tank” will continue to decrease over time. There will come a day (perhaps a decade or two away) when the battery will recharge in literally a few seconds.

    And that’s not even considering the *very* optimistic folks that think we can put solar panels and an induction charging system in the roadways (highways are the low-hanging fruit there). That sort of thing could almost eliminate the need to charge at a specific electric “pump”. That doesn’t seem very likely to me, but who knows – maybe some variant on this will emerge over time.

    Current battery packs won’t be able to significantly increase their charging rates, but we are SO in the initial stages of EVs that the idea of swapping out battery packs will be little more than a blip.

    Indeed, if you believe the direction Tesla said it was going at its battery day a couple of years ago, they’re wanting to move away from battery PACKS and move towards smaller energy storage devices (“batteries”) throughout the car to use current dead-spaces.

    It all sounds like a lot of fun. I can’t wait! :-)

    1. “There will come a day (perhaps a decade or two away) when the battery will recharge in literally a few seconds. ”

      Ok, lets say 5 seconds for a 100kWh battery.

      Hmm, calculate, calculate.

      Given 400V, that would amount to 18.000 Ampere – just requiring a cable some 150-200 mm in diameter per cord.

    2. “The issue of long battery-charging times is quite short-term in nature … There will come a day (perhaps a decade or two away) when the battery will recharge in literally a few seconds.”

      While possibly true, modern electric cars have only existed for about a decade – the Tesla Model S was introduced in 2012. “… a decade or two away…” is 100 to 200 percent longer than the total existence of such automobiles. Heck, it’s plus ~10-20% of the entire history of mass production of cars of any kind.

      At the longer of your estimates, a child born today won’t see your near-instant charging until they’re a sophomore in college. On the other hand, they might be living in a cleaner, more survivable world, one in which “electric car” is a trivialy ordinary term most often shortened to just “car”.

    3. “The issue of long battery-charging times is quite short-term in nature.”

      You’re right! If you solve it with super-high charge currents, the battery *does* become quite short-term in nature.

    4. “Solar roadways” fall apart with the simplest investigation. 1kW/m^2. That’s all the solar energy you’re ever going to get on planet Earth, and that’s the peak – average is about a eighth of that when your solar panel can’t be tilted toward the sun, and you need to average it over 24 hours a day. Hm. 125W/m^2. And that’s for 100% efficient solar cells, which happens never. Hm. 25% efficiency, now we’re down to about 30W/m^2. Still want to build that roadway?

      1. 30 W/m^2 is 100 kW per lane-kilometer. You could support (on average) a car every 200 meters, or 15,000 cars per day.

        There are a lot of reasons why solar roadways are a dumb idea, but power density isn’t one of them.

        1. The #1 problem with solar roads isn’t energy density. It isn’t snow. It’s that there are vehicles driving around on top of it BLOCKING THE SUNLIGHT.

          It’s like putting solar panels under the pergola over your back deck and declaring yourself a genius for thinking of such an innovative use of the space.

          1. Its not even really that – most roads you would build such things on have fast flowing traffic and congestion for maybe 2 hours total every day and are damn nearly empty the rest of the time – so there is lots of energy you could collect. It is more that Solar panels while pretty tough and enduring if you treat them right are not a natural fit for having hundreds of tonnes of vehicles pass over them all the time, and as soon as you break one of them you harm the wholes function and quite probably the panels themselves then cause further damage to each other because of the break.

          2. The biggest problem was actually, as they tried it in the Netherlands, that the solar roadway doesn’t even recover the energy cost to make the road.

            That’s because the surface just doesn’t stay clean and free of scratches or other obstructions, and the energy production is abysmal. You have non-optimal angles, shadows, dirt/dust, and huge light losses in the thick slab of textured glass on top. After all, you can’t pave with perfectly smooth flat panels – that’d be a safety disaster. The road has to do what a road does, which is to provide a gripping surface for tires, which means it needs to be rough, which means it diffuses light into odd angles which is bad for silicon PV cells’ efficiency, and it holds debris. After a while of getting blasted by cars driving on top, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was 80% light loss through the glass.

    5. Better Place Ltd. tried, and almosr succeeded, selling this concept (they had a few swapping syations in Denmark, Israel, and few other places) in the 1990-s. They ran out of money and folded. Tesla demonstrated a swapping station (for model S?) but never took is seriosly. As charging became faster and range became longer, the interest in this concept died out. With the high amprage needed, swappable batteries my be unsafe, and most prople would rather charge.

      1. Tesla built one swap station but never opened it for business. The Model S battery isn’t designed to be removed and replaced a lot of times. There’s a large number of bolts to remove and the connector needs to be carefully aligned before pushing the battery up. The mounting bolts and holes could get worn, thread stripped or cross threaded. A slight misalignment of the connector can damage or destroy it.

        Swapping a Model S battery was like during the early development of the Tucker 48 when Preston Tucker said he was going to design it so the engine could be removed in 15 minutes. He soon figured out how impractical that was, and that if the engine was very reliable there would rarely be a need to remove it, let alone so quickly.

        The closest I’ve seen to that fast for an engine removal is some Subarus. Disconnect all wiring, hoses and cables from the engine. Remove the 4 nuts or bolts holding the exhaust pipes to the underside of the heads. Remove the engine mount bolts. Remove the 4 bolts holding the transaxle bellhousing to the engine block. Remove the engine. A couple of people who know every single detail about a particular model of Subaru might be able to have it out in 15 minutes.

          1. A Baja, not with full sheet metal you didn’t.

            Full bug engine swap races used to be common. Had to be under 15 minutes to be competitive. 3 person teams, Bajas, IIRC.

          2. Nobody mentioned anything about a Baja. It was a normal VW Bug with a stock engine in the back. We weren’t trying to be fast. It was just that easy and quick to remove it.

        1. “Tesla built one swap station but never opened it for business.”

          Let’s think about this for a minute. Tesla originally looked into battery swap to reduce range anxiety. Then they switched to supercharging.

          Battery swap stations require Tesla to have an overproduction of batteries on hand. In addition, the cars themselves will last dramatically longer (or reduce the luxury aspect) because the battery’s the primary aging object in the car. So it costs Tesla more in both batteries and in reduced sales (or reduced value).

          Supercharging actually makes Tesla money because it actually degrades the battery (so it *increases* car sales, or, equivalently, maintains the luxury aspect) and they don’t have to maintain an overproduction of batteries. It’s a massive win-win for them.

          The main thing that’s impractical about battery swap is the economics for the car manufacturer.

          1. They can’t mix modes, or everybody with a degraded battery would swap, until they got a fresh battery.

            If they do swaps, it implies battery as a service. Which means customers see the cost up front.

            Alternatively, smart batteries that know how many times they’ve been charged/discharged and how fast.

    6. “The issue of long battery-charging times is quite short-term in nature. With the various advances in EV energy storage systems coming (eg: so-called “solid state” batteries), the amount of time it takes to fill the EV “tank” will continue to decrease over time.”

      But at the same time, the chance of the battery failing during a charge, increases if the amount of time it takes to fill the EV “tank” decreases. You are trying to put more energy into something in a shorter time. 100% efficiency is not reachable, which means that always a part of the energy will be converted into heat. So the faster you put energy into a system that is not 100% efficient, the faster it heats up. And heat builds up cumulatively, if you can’t remove it quickly enough. And that can be quite dangerous.

      So, I don’t think it’s so easy as you think. If the danger becomes too high, the progress that you mention wil come to an end.

      So in the end, we will end up with replacable battery packs anyway. As the capacity of the battery increases, there will be more an more need of charging them in a safe place. Which is not at home in front of your door. :) A few accidents will make it happen.

  3. The batteries still need to get recharged, and big batteries like in teslas. etc, will take a lot of power to get recharged fast enough to keep up with demand. As it is now, there’s problems with long queues, and reduced charging rates at busy charge stations. This won’t be any different, it’ll just be buffered by a full battery charge time.
    You’ll have a stack of dead batteries charging, up, and people queued trying for a swap, but waiting hours for the next one to finish charging.

    1. A battery swapping system will always have more than one battery per car because they need to stockpile for peak demand, as limited by charging rates, and to buffer for uneven distribution of customers that changes randomly. The equipment also costs money, and the batteries have to be recycled sooner because they have to meet arbitrary performance demands and cannot be used to death. Then you have to account for the infrastructure cost and operator profits, because you’re adding an extra middle man in between.

      All this means the battery swap scheme or “battery as service” is inherently much more expensive and less energy efficient than owning your battery directly. It’s just initially cheaper because you lease the battery, which lowers the threshold to buy an EV by slashing the price in half.

      I don’t think the system will ever work non-subsidized, except in China where the government can simply say “Buy it or don’t drive.”

      1. And the proof is in the pudding.

        “100 kWh battery plan for roughly $223 USD a month.”

        Over 12 years estimated lifespan, this comes to $321 per kWh. A Tesla battery costs $130-150 per kWh to make according to Tesla’s claims, and they charge you $225 per kWh for a replacement unit, so already you can se it’s at least 50% more expensive to lease the battery.

        1. The benefit of a battery swap lease is you don’t need to baby the battery and it always has max capacity.

          Depending on how you want to use the EV, a 12-year lifetime could be completely impractical (I already think it’s unlikely as an average).

          1. The trick is that you take the debt because you don’t have the money. If you already can’t afford an electric car because the battery is so expensive, you won’t afford the +50% interest on debt OR the service cost either.

            > a 12-year lifetime could be completely impractical

            It’s absolutely crucial, and it should be even longer. There are surprisingly many people who cannot afford such monthly payments because they can’t even afford to buy cars younger than 12 years.

          1. Yup. Multiple battery swaps (6) per month plus a $19K up-front reduction (nearly 1500 miles per month). With a 10-year calendric service life on the battery you’re talking about the equivalent of a 3.4% loan with a huge reduction in fuel cost. Plus no battery degradation over that period.

            It’s a seriously good deal for the consumer.

          2. >It’s a seriously good deal for the consumer.

            For consumers who can afford cars which take a ten year loan to pay off, and for consumers who have the cash at hand to invest it instead and offset the cost of the loan. For the rest of us, it’s not a realistic proposition to pay 50% more on top.

      2. I can see it catching on for the taxi/bus/HGV type professional crowd given a chance, as the utility the concept offers suits the really high milage to a tight schedule driver. Doesn’t make as much sense for most personal vehicles though.

        Of course for that to happen a town/city has to mandate or buy x brand cars for all its taxis, the HGV makers need to decide a common standard is in their interests – which will happen naturally in the end if battery powered haulage takes off for the same reason PC standards were born, its good for them all and their customers or may happen by force if a larger HGV maker is confined by regulations for one of their parent nation or all HGV makers by rules in the bigger markets for their products.

        1. The reason why so many taxis are diesel is because a small efficient turbo diesel goes 1000 km on a fill. You can run an entire shift, probably two shifts in a row on the same tank.

          It doesn’t matter if the EV does quicker pit-stops by battery swapping – it still makes many more and the drivers have to go out of their way to get to the station, which in itself wastes time.

          1. For in town use – which most taxi will be EV’s generally end up much more efficient as they are not burning energy sitting still in the same fashion and get some fraction of the energy back every time they stop, which with the current battery capacity means range that is hugely more than sufficent for a shift… The rapid switch just makes it easy for the next guy on shift to arrive to a full charge while not super rapidly charging the battery right to the limit (which isn’t good for it).

          2. >they are not burning energy sitting still

            Half a liter per hour for idling the diesel is not much difference in range. If you were idling the entire 8 hour shift, you’d use get some fraction of the energy back

            Regenerative braking for the EV is <10% increase in range in the real world. It's overhyped.

          3. Dude it doesn’t matter how much or how little of a diesel tank is wasted idling, the efficiency of wasting that energy over just being turned off doesn’t change. Not saying the diesel isn’t functionally practical, just that you DO waste lots of energy sitting idle and the EV doesn’t – which for taxi that can spend a great deal of time stationary at idle matters to its efficiency.

            All that matters for this potential EV version is if it can do an entire shift – which it should with ease, then it becomes practical and because it doesn’t have to waste energy idling, gets some back regeneratively (yes its not huge but a return vs no return is still a win) – you then have choice of the more efficient, cleaner EV or the dirty, inefficient diesel – which for a fleet car making such an investment is a nobrainer, the EV is hands down the better choice, and despite its probably significantly higher upfront cost it will lead to bigger profits overall. For an individual other factors can come into play that make battery EV impractical as it stands, but that is a whole other argument.

  4. I doubt this will ever catch on for passenger cars, as the article notes there are huge advantages to customizing the battery pack to the vehicle model and folks are rarely in a huge hurry to get a full battery. Where the technology has a strong chance is in the field of electric long haul trucks. Semi trucks are already a fairly standard design with a fuel tank on each side. Even better Long Haul truckers already use a limited number of fueling stations, so there is a targeted set of stations with motivation to participate. And of course truckers and trucking companies are VERY sensitive to time factors and will pay a premium to get back on the road in minimum time.

    1. Diesel fuel is 10 kWh per liter and lithium batteries are 0.8 kWh per liter. Even accounting for efficiency, replacing the semi-truck fuel tanks with batteries would see the truck go 1/5th the distance.

      That’s one of the reasons why EVs have to have the batteries embedded in the bottom. They take five times the space of a regular tank of fuel for the same range (and 10x the mass).

      1. I didn’t say replace the fuel tanks with batteries, I said that all semis are built around the same set of design parameters and so they all tend to be built very similar and have similar engineering. Perhaps the whole bottom of the truck will be battery or they will shaped in a block, the point is that it will be much easier for manufacturers to agree on a uniform configuration, and the rewards for doing so will be much higher. And the energy density of diesel does not matter, we have to stop burning it.

        1. No we don’t. It just depends on how we get the diesel (or equivalent) fuel.

          There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a diesel engine. The problems are caused by legislators trying to beat physics by mandating arbitrary efficiency targets, which forces bad compromises. Higher compression ratios, higher temperatures, wringing more power out of tiny engines, which leads to high NOx pollution which is barely kept in check by expensive exhaust treatment systems that don’t really work.

      2. Diesel trucks are pigs because weight is needed for traction and safety. Hence everything is fat, heavy and overbuilt.

        They can make weight for the batteries buy reducing the amount of extra steel in the every part and end up at the same design weight.

  5. Didn’t California have a tax credit for this? I recall Tesla built a facility along I5 to do this and ran through one Model S to capture the credit for all Model S cars made. After which they closed it down.

  6. Well, first precarious workers were cruising cities swapping sharing scooter batteries in Germany, now one of the larger services is outsourcing this to the consumer with batteryswapping boxes all for the sake of a green innovative future! Yeee!

  7. Believe it or not a similar system was introduced by the London Electrobus Company way back in 1907 (yup, over 100 years ago) in the hope it might replace the horses that were then used to haul many buses around London. As the technology of the time was lead acid, a battery weighing one and a half tons was needed to give a range of 60km, SO halfway through the day, they would return to the garage and drive up a ramp where a team of mechanics could replace the dead battery with a freshly charged one in around three minutes. Sadly the whole company collapsed in the midst of various frauds and the idea was left on the shelf for another century.

  8. I expect the Western model will end up with bespoke batteries for each vehicle platform. I also don’t expect a common charging platform, as the copper in yhe charging cables is very valuable and easily harvested.

    What I expect to happen will be the battery tech move toward dense gel electrolyte exchange batteries. So you never replace the battery, you just swap the goo inside.

  9. Look up the free electric shuttle buses in Chattanooga, TN. They started with a federal grant in the 1990’s. Aside fromt that grant, the shuttle buses have been self funding through donation boxes at the two stations and on each bus, plus a cut of the city parking lot fees.

    They started with lead-acid batteries and a swap system at the old train station. They stopped swapping batteries after changing to NiMH batteries that only needed a top up charge to finish a day’s use. Their most recent change had been to Li-Ion batteries that can run a full day’s shift without needing any topping up on their charge.

  10. @BrightBlueJim: charge on the long distance to go the last mile from where you leave the train, and replace the energy you used to get to the train station. So you can design the battery for commuter distances and use the car for long holiday trips without excessive charging stops on the way.

  11. One benefit of swapping: Resale value of the used EV won’t be impacted by battery age. This is a big deal on a five or ten year old EV.

    One big problem: what happens when I swap my crappy near end of life battery for a fresh new one. The swap system needs to take that into account.

    Possible solution: like the compressed gas industry, maybe the customer should not own the battery. You buy an EV and lease the battery with the ability to swap it for a full one but the system has to make enough money to pay for end of life batteries and failure.

    More issues: People like to talk about cost to charge that EV but don’t like to think about the lifecycle cost of the battery and the fact that there is not yet a good solution to recovery of toxic materials in them. A swap system eliminates the manufacturer’s ability to have a “better battery” than their competitors. The industry is not mature enough to have settled on a “best battery” yet.

    1. “One big problem: what happens when I swap my crappy near end of life battery for a fresh new one. The swap system needs to take that into account.”

      That’s why you restrict access to the swap network to people who lease batteries. Basically no one ever ends up with a crappy near end of life battery.

      The big advantage for the EV manufacturer is that they can compete price-wise incredibly well, since you can guarantee that all the packs you make are basically never abused. They’ll live by far longer. *And* once they near functional ‘EV end of life’ you can sell them for grid storage since you own them already.

      The huge disadvantage, of course, is that the manufacturer has to have an oversupply of batteries and, well… the car lasts forever.

      “A swap system eliminates the manufacturer’s ability to have a “better battery” than their competitors.”

      Not if the manufacturer runs the swap system. If they do, it *enables* them to have a better battery. All of their batteries live longer, all of their cars maintain range better, all of their cars have lower up-front cost.

      But the fact that the cars will last forever is just a huge killer.

  12. One thing that I haven’t seen yet in an EV is a modular battery system. Not every car needs a huge fuel tank. My truck takes 34 gallons in one of its tanks. My sports car only takes 14 gallons. The fuel mileage and the way I use those vehicles are completely different.

    It would be neat to see battery swapping stations use a standard modular pack, like say 5 kWh, instead of an entire battery pack. Much like how some people don’t fill their entire tank, you would only replace the packs of cells that make sense for your application. Going across town? Maybe just swap out two. Going cross country? Change out the whole thing with fresh packs. This would make it much easier to store the packs and make it practical for someone to remove them manually if needed. In turn, manufacturers would have different configurations of packs depending on the use case with their vehicle. You would be trading compactness, weight, and range for ease of removal, repairability, and compatibility.

    I know I know, optimists aren’t allowed to post on hackaday. I’ll go back to figuring out how to replace my microcontrollers with 555 timers.

  13. Everyone’s sweating all the details, without looking at the biggest issue, which is that all those batteries have to be charged.

    The only real benefit do a battery swap station is as a buffer so that you can distribute the charging over 24 hours. You still need to charge all those batteries, and they still need the same average power to charge as all of them would need to charge at the same rate (charged batteries per day), etc.

    If you just look at power in/power out, you’ll realize that this could never scale to the extent where everyone can visit as easily as a gas station, which fills hundreds of cars in a day. (You would still need to charge hundreds of batteries. There’s not an infinite supply of pre-charged ones)

    1. True, though you miss perhaps the biggest selling point of an EV for most people – that you never have to go to a filling station as you won’t run out (near enough anyway) – most EV owners have a space to charge it at home, many workplaces/shopping center etc are starting to have charge points too, which means the magic tank refilling fairies came round while they were sleeping/working – so you only need to change/charge the battery up en-route on very long trips, which for most people is a rare occasion.

      With ICE they have to waste their life taking that detour to get petrol reliably every day/week/fortnight based almost entirely on the mileage totals since last fill, so everyone always has to fill up quite often no matter what. So of course the petrol stations are always very busy.

      While you do no doubt need more batteries than the number of cars by some margin to do a hotswap system you really don’t need as many as visitors to a petrol station would lead you to believe, as most EV will do that day (heck for many of them more than one day) of driving around and are always full when you started.

    2. The SPACE required is the worst of it. In order to be able to put swap stations where people need them, like near where they work, which won’t necessarily be where there is inexpensive land, they’re going to have to either go deep underground, or they’re going to have to transport them to less expensive places, which just adds another cost.

      The actual charging isn’t a problem, though – where the battery gets charged doesn’t change the amount of energy used (other than for additional transportation, and just the operation of the swap station), and batteries in these storage lots can both charge when power is cheapest, and supply power back to the grid during peak usage and low supply availability times. NOT that I’m a fan, but there is that saving grace. The real problem with electric cars is people who have to park their cars on the street because they have no exclusive parking associated with their living spaces, so this could (if it were practical) address that. I think the reality is going to be that for apartment dwellers, e-bikes that can be brought into their apartments are going to be what they’re stuck with. That, or rental garage spaces with included charging stations, but that only works if people can afford the garage rental.

      There ARE other alternatives, though. For people living within a city, and have no place at home to charge their cars, much-expanded park-and-ride lots with charging facilities could be built at or adjacent to transit centers, so they drive to the transit center and park at an all-day charging station, and take a bus or tram to work and back. Charging stations on city streets are also an option, but these need infrastructure to work, which is a challenge to implementation in dense cities.

      I just really think, for the reasons that are exhaustively covered in the comments here, that battery swapping only works for fleet vehicles, where there is some control over the number of different car models that need to be handled, and for those, there’s pretty much always an overnight parking garage anyway, so already a charging solution.

      1. One thing I know has been done in the UK at least as a trial is making the lamppost a charging point – so no dedicated parking space is required, just park anywhere at the side of the road in reach of your charging cable to the lamppost. Which at least according to my main source of firsthand electric car experience work rather neatly.

        Not sure how successful such ideas will be really be on larger scales and other locations, yet – but I can’t see a good reason why similar things can’t be done more widely, which makes it so anybody who can park their car in the residential area can find a charger – probably a rather slow charger, but still when plugged in overnight even the 13A wall socket will get you a very long way tomorrow.

        On the whole though I agree cycling and skating electric or otherwise should end up being both more common and more provided for as a way of getting around, its way more efficient than lugging a tonne of car around when its just you and no baggage, and might get folks a little light exercise too…

        Which at least here in the UK means sorting out rather archaic regulations into something suitable for the era of the personal e conveyance – not quite sure what form that should really take though but its clearly daft to be able to hire an electric scooter and use it to get around and not be allowed to buy one and actually use it, the way the power limits and control legalities are laid out on these sort of things is also an overly complex minefield IMO, as well as vastly improving the cycle lane infrastructure so being a cyclist isn’t quite so dangerous, be nice to have more segregation from the pedestrians in places too rather than pushing both into the same narrow strip. I don’t expect to magically turn the UK roads into the Dutch roads for cyclist – at least from what I hear they are better laid out for cyclist and the drivers are less murderous in behavior, but making steps in that sort of direction so you don’t need to hyper alert at all times for the car that won’t leave you any space while dodging the terrible road edge that will try to throw you off the bike or the pedestrian that can’t hear you over the traffic and will just veer suddenly into your way on the shared pavements without looking (which with how poorly some of these shared spaces are marked and how narrow and overgrown the edges can be is somewhat fair enough – its not easy to see the markings to warm them this pavement is shared at times – a few sign above even my head height half buried in the overgrowth or attached to the same posts as the road sign so it doesn’t jump out as relevant to those on the footpath…

        1. Old school sodium street lights were typically 400W. LED replacement bulbs are about 40-50W.

          That’s about 3A/120V equivalent extra power at typical older light poles. Divided by two cars…

          You can bet the lights aren’t seriously overbuilt (startup surge might get you some more power, assuming the charger doesn’t surge). So no charge at all from the lights built for LEDs.

          Plus no data link for payment, so cell network for that.

          1. I believe this was a very specifically installed set of new streetlamps not a retrofit to the existing, so they probably did have a data link and greater power than just the differential between old bulbs and the LED replacements.

            That said putting a 2A trickle charge type point on all old lightposts that are already wired to handle that easily might well make sense – who cares about the payment at that speed of delivery its not putting much strain on the grid and the cost savings and health benefits of getting more folk to go electric should more than make up for giving away electric (perhaps only overnight too when there usually is a meaningful surplus?)..

          2. I don’t think so. LEDs at their current best have about the same lumens/Watt efficiency as low-pressure sodium, so no, there is not a factor-of-ten difference between the two, for a given amount of light.

    1. No reason it can’t – even with car size disparity the same size battery is probably going to work out to similar range, not enough penalty to loose viability – so maybe the SUV doesn’t need a bigger one than the compact. Also the SUV could always hog two ‘compact’ battery, heck the American size pickups can probably take 4 battery suitable for most European sized cars no trouble in their footprint…

      I don’t think it will happen outside of fleet vehicles anytime soon though, consumers like their choices and the vastly different body shapes and sizes for different roles will be much easier to accommodate without having to build in a standard battery (at least while the battery must remain so large to give good range – when/if battery ever get similarly energy dense to petrol so can get vastly smaller then the game changes).

  14. I’ve got it! This is how you make this work, in the U.S. and possibly other places: battery trailers. You limit the batteries built into the vehicles to what the owner orders, to handle daily driving, with some extra margin for comfort. Then, for long trips and for those days when you have a thousand errands to run, you have a trailer full of batteries that will give you 1000km (or whatever) of range when you need it. Several different standard sizes can be made, kind of like the variety of U-Haul trailers available in every city. These trailers can be treated like propane cylinders, where you can swap them for fully charged ones when you have a sudden need for a longer drive. You lease these, with the wear and tear on the batteries amortized so there’s no worry about trading in a brand new trailer on one that’s gone through 80% of its useful life. And you can still charge them at home and use them for supplementary grid storage on those days when you’re just driving to work and back, although some accounting is necessary here so that you still pay for the wear. Best of both worlds – you only have to pay outright for the limited range included in the vehicle (which also reduces the energy cost for daily driving, as well as saving on tire wear), but can still get all the range you need to drive all day, when you need it.

  15. All it needs is for a govt or cooperative vehicle manufacturers to decide on a standard which will work to everyone’s benefit.
    In disposable batteries, we already have this AA, AAA, etc

    In industry the shipping market was transformed by the introduction of standardised containers.

    It looks like the European and USA vehicle manufacturers are shooting themselves in the foot IMO.

    And it needn’t even be an electric battery. It could be a fuel cell or generator and fuel supply that fits within the dimensions.

    I looking forward to not having to handle hydrocarbon fuels or breathe its emissions, and as a plus, not have to hear the noise of the “tuned” vehicles of the tiny penis brigade who think their vehicle is an expression of their manliness… :)

    1. Then maybe this is going to take some time before “standard” battery sizes can be agreed on. At the moment, next to purchase price, driving range appears to be the most important competitive factor among EVs. And it’s not even as simple as “How much range do you need”, because the same energy capacity gives you a different range in different sizes of cars. In ICE cars, it has been pretty easy to tailor the fuel tank size to the weight and efficiency of the vehicle, allowing manufacturers to offer a driving range that their customers will accept. If when you are choosing an EV, you have to trade vehicle size against range, you’re going to create a bunch of “corner cases” where there is no standard solution that works. This is why this is an issue in the first place. Sure, there are devices for which AAA batteries are sufficient, because they give you enough battery life for an acceptable frequency of battery changes, but when the next step up is AA batteries, with five times the energy capacity, but oops, five times the volume and mass, you see the problem with standard sizes. That being, if I may state the obvious, that there isn’t enough resolution in consumer choices. Most ICE vehicles I’ve ever owned had a range of 200-300 miles, and again, this was because the manufacturers had the ability to size the fuel tank however they wanted. But if you gave me the choice between having 100 and 500 miles of range, due to the available standard sizes, this would be a problem.

  16. Has anyone ever imagined that when you drive on the road, the power vehicle with fast charging and space manipulator will automatically connect with the charging interface of your car. Then leave. You can continue driving without stopping.

  17. Instead of complaining about charging vehicle batteries get a vehicle that never needs a recharge – an electric truck with a NuScale Small Nuclear Reactor as the trailer! Your friend’s EVs could convoy with you and you could give them a charge every now and then. Enough energy to go for a lifetime of travel!

    Of course if a nuclear reactor was in a vehicle it could power a big airship, thinking blocks long quadcopter to travel the world! XD

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