The $1 billion bankruptcy of Better Place seems to have ended battery swapping as the way to recharge electric cars. But Chinese players are having second thoughts, and their ambitious plans for Europe may breathe new life into the technology.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the problem that Better Place was trying to solve, and why battery swapping may still be a viable solution for electric cars. We’ll also see how the Chinese are planning to make battery swapping work in Europe, and what that could mean for the future of electric cars.
What is battery swapping and why was it popularized by Better Place?
Battery swapping is a process whereby the battery of an electric vehicle (EV) is replaced with a fully charged battery. The idea was popularized by Better Place, a now-defunct company that developed a network of battery swapping stations for EVs. The company went bankrupt in 2013, but the concept of battery swapping has been revived by a number of startups in recent years.
The appeal of battery swapping is that it offers a much faster way to recharge an EV than plugging it into
How did Better Place’s bankruptcy signal the end of battery swapping?
Better Place’s bankruptcy was the end of battery swapping because it signaled that the company was unable to continue its operations. This, in turn, meant that there was no longer a market for its battery swapping technology.
What are Chinese companies doing to revive battery swapping?
As the EV market continues to grow in China, so too does the need for reliable and efficient battery swapping solutions. Chinese companies are working hard to develop and deploy battery swapping infrastructure across the country, in order to make EVs more convenient and affordable for consumers.
Some of the most notable battery swapping initiatives in China have been undertaken by companies such as NIO, BAIC, and GAC. NIO, for example, has deployed over 1,000 battery swapping stations across China,
What are the benefits of battery swapping over other methods of recharging electric cars?
Electric car battery swapping has a number of advantages over other methods of recharging electric cars, including:
1. Quick and easy: Battery swapping is a quick and easy way to recharge an electric car, taking just a few minutes to complete.
2. Convenient: Battery swapping stations can be located at convenient locations such as petrol stations, making it easy to find a place to recharge your car.
3. Affordable: Battery swapping is a more affordable way to recharge
What challenges must be overcome for battery swapping to be successful?
The main challenges battery swapping must overcome are:
1. Technical feasibility – can the batteries be quickly and easily swapped out?
2. Economic viability – is the cost of swapping batteries lower than the cost of buying new batteries?
3. Regulatory approval – does the government allow battery swapping?
4. Consumer acceptability – are consumers willing to use battery swapping?
What does the future hold for battery swapping?
The future of battery swapping looks promising. With the advent of new technologies, battery swapping could become more widespread and efficient. Additionally, the cost of batteries is expected to continue to decline, making battery swapping a more affordable option for consumers.
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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. Battery swapping is said to match ICE refueling speeds
European automakers are not impressed by the idea of battery swapping and that’s a mistake, according to Professor Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director at the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.
So far, all German car manufacturers say they see no market for battery swapping in Europe. I believe that is not correct. Swapping will bring great benefits in the big cities like London, Paris, and Berlin in taxi operations, so it’s coming. China is defining the rules,” Dudenhoeffer said
Better Place’s economics crashed its business with Renault of France, which started in Israel and Denmark in 2012 and was forced into bankruptcy. The huge cost of storing batteries doomed the concept. The cost of batteries of $30,000 or more meant it was uneconomic to keep enough stock readily available to swap. Car owners would worry that when their €30,000+ battery was swapped for another one, it might well be faulty. And the recharging infrastructure would soon be ubiquitous enough for EV drivers to set off on long journeys with no range anxiety, but that remains a pipedream.
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 is thinking of trying again. The problem that brought down “Better Place” – the huge cost of financing a stock of very expensive batteries – has apparently been overcome. Battery costs have been cut by standardization. Critics say the financing has been helped by big Chinese government subsidies to support the key leasing concept. 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.
Chinese automakers NIO and Geely, battery swap developer Aulton and state-owned oil company Sinopec, plan to establish 24,000 swapping stations across the country by 2025, compared with about 1,400 now.
By leasing batteries, a huge initial outlay is avoided for EV buyers, while 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.