What is EV Battery Swapping, and Why is Nobody Talking About it?

At least, nobody in North America is talking about it— yet.
Charging time for you electric vehicle (EV) varies depending on the type of charger and electric vehicle station equipment (or EVSE) used, as well as the efficiency of your vehicle. If you’re not using a DC FastCharger to charge your vehicle, it might feel like a long wait to reach a full charge. So, some might wonder “is there a faster way?”

What exactly is battery swapping?

Battery swapping is meant to serve as an alternative to traditional EV charging stations. It allows drivers to replace depleted packs almost instantaneously with fully charged batteries, rather than plugging the vehicle into a charging point and waiting for the battery to charge. Swapping could help mitigate the growing strains placed on the power grid as a result of overnight car charging and charging stations, as well as help to reduce range anxiety in drivers. Battery swapping is a relatively new charging system which has taken off across Asia and some select parts of Europe.

What are the benefits of battery swapping as opposed to charging my vehicle?

There are a few benefits of battery swapping for EVs which make this a highly enticing alternative to charging: You can obtain a fully charged battery in very little time at all. Chinese EV manufacturer Nio claims that it has automated the battery swapping process, so it takes as little as 3 minutes to swap each battery. Currently, you can receive a full charge with an L3 charger in approximately 15 to 30 minutes, which apparently might not be fast enough for some EV owners.

Another advantage to having battery swapping stations is that there will be increased predictability of battery life due to controlled charging conditions. Batteries can even be charged away from the swapping bay, which allows more freedom in setting up new facilities for rapid growth. Battery swapping also reduces the upfront cost of an electric vehicle, as battery ownership is replaced by battery leasing.

Why is it not booming in North America the same way it is in China and Southeast Asia?

There are certainly reasons why the west has not adopted battery swapping as an integral part of our EV infrastructure plan. Specialists heed that it will only take off if batteries become standardized industrywide. The main issue is that the logistics of mass producing a standard universal battery for all automakers is unlikely. This may work on an individual basis for car manufacturers but creating a standard for all to follow is reasonably outside of chance.

For most vehicle manufacturers, the choice is clear for now: a network of L3 charging stations would be a quite a lot cheaper than building a nationwide chain of expensive, automated battery swapping stations which would cost up to $3 million USD a bay. It is not just the cost and lack of standardization that holds North America back from battery swapping alternatives. It’s one thing for automation to function in moderate conditions, but how long would this type of delicate machinery operate without problem in the severe conditions we see throughout North America? It’s concerns like these that make the battery-swapping technologies seem a little more like something we will consider in the semi-distant future, only after a larger demand arises for charging alternatives.

While battery swapping may not be making its way around the world just yet, it is still a very promising alternative to EV charging stations. As the automotive industry begins to shift its focus to clean, electric powered vehicles, we will likely see new technologies emerge to allay overexertion of the electrical grid. As demand grows, there will always be room for newer and more efficient ways to improve upon charging and EV technologies.