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Battery-Swapping is Coming

One day we will look back upon the time - probably much sooner than we currently think - when we had 'range anxiety' and the tedium of queuing up and then charging our cars for an inordinate amount of time. Oh, and electric cars were so expensive.

NIO battery swapping station

The potential solution: battery swapping. Despite billions of dollars spent on speeding up battery electric vehicle (BEV) recharging technology, the process is still hopelessly slow compared with refuelling an internal combustion engine (ICE) powered vehicle.

That’s the key criteria. If electric cars can’t recharge as fast as ICE ones, the revolution will stall.

Currently, you can drive your ICE car into a gas station and take a full 400-mile plus load on board and be gone in 5 minutes. Electric cars need at least 3 times that on a good day to restore maybe 200 miles of range with recharging (assuming you can find a charger). However, battery swapping matches ICE refueling speeds.

By leasing batteries, a huge initial outlay is avoided for EV buyers, making acquiring an electric car substantially cheaper. Furthermore, the vexed problem of residual values, bedevilled by a big question mark over battery life, is eliminated. And when this problem goes, the advantages look formidable. Swapping means you will always have the latest technology and concerns about battery degradation and warranties are eliminated. It takes less than 5 minutes to swap.

You don't buy your battery, you lease or rent it. It's very like filling up your ICE car with fuel. You can also swap a small battery if your journey is local and rent a large one if a long range excursion is planned.

Plans are already underway in China from the likes of electric vehicle startup NIO Inc to build a battery swapping network. Renault has said it's considering it. NIO says it has completed more than 2 million battery swaps in China and is preparing to open for swapping in Europe and the U.S. It plans to open 5,000 stations globally by 2025, up from 800 now.

The process of establishing the infrastructure is underway. We now just need companies in other nations to get in on the act too.

EV Car charging illustration


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