11th March 2022
A Layman’s Guide to Battery Swapping
Electric Vehicle adoption in India is set to rise exponentially over the course of the next 5-10 years, especially with honorary Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announcing the government’s intent to launch a policy surrounding Battery Swapping & Interoperability standards.
Over the course of the last couple of decades, we’ve observed that globally, many Battery Swapping ventures have failed. However, this cost-effective technology has been gaining steady momentum in developing countries like India.
With India actively aiming to electrify ~80% of its 2 & 3 Wheeler fleet by 2030, we foresee an opportunity for Battery Swapping to make a comeback.
However, for a consumer trying to understand the nuances of Battery Swapping, the finer details might not be intuitive enough. Here, we’ll try to give you a sneak peek into the granular details surrounding the technology.
Let’s begin with the basics.
What is Battery Swapping?
Going through the process of charging a battery could be time-consuming.
Instead, there exists a solution that makes the procedure of refuelling your EV much faster – mechanically swapping the discharged batteries with fully charged batteries.
This activity is carried out at a Battery Swapping Station (BSS), where the discharged batteries are either charged or collected to charge at a central hub.
The swapping station acts as an aggregator providing the foundation & infrastructure where a number of batteries are made available to the EV user. This addresses a potential EV consumer’s concerns regarding the range of the vehicle.
Accessible swapping infrastructure would increase user convenience and build a greater confidence level. Considering the fact that it’s quicker than charging while helping prolong battery life, unlike multiple DC fast charging cycles.
Yuvraj Sarda, Head of Strategy at Sun Mobility, says that for individuals travelling large distances occasionally, the ability to charge anywhere without potential delays will be of utmost value.
In 2009, Better Place, an Israeli Battery Swapping start-up, raised nearly $850Mn, piggybacking on the boom of clean-tech investing. Within four years, the company went bankrupt. Shocked? So were we when we read about it. Now that we’ve understood the basics of battery swapping, let’s try and understand the challenges associated with Battery Swapping.
Challenges Associated with Battery Swapping
Huge Fixed Costs: The initial cost of setting up a Battery Swapping station is relatively high. This would include expensive electronics equipment & machinery to support the swapping infrastructure along with an additional buffer of batteries.
Tech Disruptions: Many organizations like Exponent Energy & Log 9 materials have come up with fast charging solutions where you could charge the EV within 15 minutes.
Standardization of Batteries: Many electric 2 & 3 Wheeler manufacturers believe in having a unique battery design to ensure competitive advantage in this space. For battery swapping to become the norm, the standardization of batteries is critical to support interoperability.
“Having been in the thick of all things battery swapping, we can say it is still very early to introduce an interoperability standard for an industry-wide implementation,” said Arun Sreyas, a co-founder of EV infrastructure company RACEnergy.
Scalability concerns: Naveen Munjal, MD Hero Electric, believes that the only way to make swapping work would be to have an extremely dense network. At this moment, there is a dearth in the number of swapping stations in India.
However, despite these challenges, we see major market players like Bounce betting big on the Battery as a service model. There are a couple of major reasons for the same:
— Negligible downtime – You could potentially swap a battery within 5 minutes, thus reducing downtime & improving ease of commute.
— Reduction in upfront cost – Battery as a service model would significantly downsize the cost of buying an EV as battery ownership would be replaced by battery leasing. For a cost-sensitive market like India, affordability would be a major influencing factor to promote the adoption of EVs.
Is Battery Swapping Technology an Innovation Rightly Timed for Today's Market Condition for a Country like India?
We strongly believe that it is.
Case In Point – Gogoro.
A Taiwanese Battery Swapping startup has successfully grown its local subscription base to >400,000 subscribers & >$1Bn in revenues in just its domestic market. All this within 5 years.
As a matter of fact, Gogoro has been able to penetrate deeply in the Taiwanese market, such that the country would have many more swapping stations in comparison to standard gas stations. The company will soon be launching its IPO.
This example would stand as a great validation for the technology to mark its presence in developing countries – especially where we see the automotive market more oriented towards 2 Wheelers and 3 Wheelers. The compact distribution network of the portable batteries would be a slam dunk for the technology to create an impact.
With established players like SUN Mobility associating with Piaggio & Ashok Leyland to develop a strong swapping network & the entry of new-age startups like RACEnergy, ChargeUp and Battery Smart, we feel that this could be the tipping point for Swapping Technologies in India.
In conclusion, with India’s mobility needs swiftly electrifying, we believe that Battery Swapping and Charging technologies can mutually co-exist & help India accelerate to an all-electric future
About ION Energy
ION Energy is an advanced battery management and intelligence platform. We’re focused on building technologies that improve the life and performance of lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles and energy storage systems.
Our customers typically choose ION Energy because of its reliability, transparency, commitment towards customer success, and innovative business models. OEMs and battery pack manufacturers across the globe choose ION’s integrated battery management solutions to continuously improve the life and performance of the battery.