Swappable Batteries: Jerry Cans of the Future?
Swappable batteries reduce charging time, and leverage existing infrastructure to support the widespread adoption of EVs.
As electric vehicles (EVs) continue to gain momentum, it becomes evident that the future of transportation lies in electrification. Today, there are two types of battery systems in EVs: fixed and swappable. Fixed battery systems have some limitations such as long charging times and limited range but work for personal mobility needs. Swappable batteries address these concerns in several ways. They enable quick and convenient swaps, reduce charging time, and leverage existing infrastructure to support the widespread adoption of EVs, making them a much more reliable alternative. Additionally, battery swapping reduces the upfront cost of vehicles by 30-50%.
The experience of swapping batteries shares similarities with the traditional process of filling up a vehicle with petroleum. Just as filling up a vehicle's tank takes a certain amount of time, swapping batteries is a hassle-free process, even quicker! Additionally, the cost is often cheaper compared to filling up a vehicle with petrol – making it an attractive option for drivers on the go. With battery swapping, users only pay for the energy they use, further enhancing its cost-effectiveness.
From an infrastructure standpoint, battery swapping companies can establish partnerships with petrol giants to set up swap stations within the same compounds as petrol stations. In the future, petrol stations could potentially resemble swap stations, as they both occupy the same physical space as a traditional petrol dispensing machine, resulting in a highly similar user experience. Swap stations enabled through partnerships are perfect for petrol giants as these stations can address the same footfall of vehicles within the same area of their petrol pumps. However, had it been a charging model, they will not be able to address the same footfall.
Petroleum has long been used in emergencies, where jerry cans are transported to remote areas to power generators and provide essential electricity during disasters. Similarly, swappable batteries can serve as a reliable power source in emergency-stricken regions. Instead of relying on generators, battery packs can be transported and easily connected to inverters, offering power for remote applications and larger backup capacity.
What is more interesting is that just as fossil fuels are used to power the grid, batteries can also do the same using renewable sources of energy. Batteries can unleash the power generation capability of solar, wind and hydro plants - making them better than other traditional polluting types of power plants. Large-scale batteries are already being deployed to do this. Additionally, hundreds of battery swapping stations working together can also indirectly act as a power backup to these renewable energy sources by balancing the supply and demand imbalance that the grid faces.
Acting as interconnected power banks, these stations store excess electricity during low-demand periods and redistribute it to the grid during high-demand times. By doing so, they reduce the load on the grid and support the wider adoption of EVs. This transition helps replace the role of peaker plants, which traditionally rely on fossil fuels like natural gas/coal to generate power.
This is exactly what happened in California, during the summer of 2022 where the electrification of vehicles revealed a pressing issue. Despite the state's plan to ban internal combustion engine (ICE) cars by 2035, EV owners were advised to avoid charging during peak hours, leading to a significant strain on the power grid.
Swappable batteries offer a promising solution to the challenges faced by fixed battery systems in EVs. By drawing analogies between battery swapping and the convenience of petroleum in jerry cans, we can understand the potential of this technology to revolutionise the way we power our vehicles and provide emergency electricity. With the Indian government aiming to make 30% of vehicular traffic electric by 2030, swappable batteries are poised to become the jerry cans of the future: ensuring a cleaner, more efficient, and reliable transportation ecosystem for all.
Arun Sreyas is the Co-Founder, RACE Energy. Views expressed are those of the author.
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