Micromobility Battery Swapping Leads the Way for Passenger EV Swaps
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Micromobility Battery Swapping Leads the Way for Passenger EV Swaps

Neuron Mobility scooter and electric bike, with swappable batteries, ridden by women on a treed path
  • Battery swapping is a potential solution to range anxiety, but it works better for e-scooters than full-size cars currently.
  • E-mobility batteries would need to be universal in size and design to work across different brands for swapping.
  • Commercial fleets will most likely try swapping in the near future to reduce charging downtime.

Battery swapping is super appealing as a way to assuage range anxiety for EV drivers, and it is already working as a micromobility charging solution.

And while it isn’t commercially viable for passenger EVs right now, battery swapping is being tested in commercial fleets. That is a crucial step for the move to passenger EVs.


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To be sure, widespread passenger car EV battery swapping may be quite a few years in the future. But it will begin to arrive in smaller numbers sooner, and that will be a big boost for EV adoption.

“It is not the right time for [passenger EV] swapping because the capital costs are so high, especially in the U.S. because there are not enough EVs,” Tu Le, managing director of Sino Auto Insights told Electrify News.

But he said, “When someone on the commercial side decides to take the lead — that is the first domino. Then it will cross to the passenger side; it is inevitable.” 


Go Gogoro 

Image care of Gogoro

Battery swapping is already successful in the micromobility world of scooters, mopeds and motorcycles.

Taiwan’s Gogoro is lighting the way as a leader in battery swapping through its electric scooters and battery swapping stations. Gogoro has battery swap kiosks, as they are known, in Taiwan, China, India, Israel, the Philippines, Singapore, and South Korea. It has an agreement with Latin American energy company Copec to bring its battery swapping stations to Chile and Columbia later this year.

With a battery swapping network of more than12,200 in Taiwan alone performing more than 390,000 battery swaps daily, Gogoro has proven the concept.


Image care of Gogoro

“The type of [battery swapping] solution that works is like Gogoro,” Sam Abuelsamid, principal mobility research analyst with Guidehouse Insights told Electrify News. “You can subscribe and whenever you need a charge, you just pull up to one of these kiosks and slip in a battery. It is kind of like Starbucks.”

What makes Gogoro’s solution so successful? The batteries are relatively small, there is not a compelling reason to have unique batteries for the scooters, and the cost of the battery swapping kiosks is “manageable,” Abuelsamid said.

He called lack of standardization “the fundamental problem” with the widespread use of passenger EV battery swapping. “For a third party, they would have to have stations that stocked all these different kinds of batteries.” 


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Battery Swapping in China

Image care of NIO

NIO, an EV startup and battery swapping pioneer in China, illustrates how the lack of standardization is a barrier to profitable swapping.

It has performed more than 40 million battery swaps through a battery swapping network with close to 2,400 locations, mainly in China but also in Europe.

A NIO battery swap takes under three minutes. Compare that to even the fastest electric car charging time, and it is still appealing.

But NIO’s battery swap stations are still not profitable because they aren’t utilized enough.  Only NIO EV drivers can currently use the stations, and NIO had delivered only 449,594 EVs globally as of Dec. 31, 2023.

NIO’s battery swap strategy is “a really expensive business model,” Yale Zhang, managing director of Shanghai-based Auto Foresight, told Electrify News. “It is very good for the car owner but not so good for the manufacturer.”

To be sure, NIO is negotiating with other automakers to share battery formats. The brand will also work with CATL, the world’s largest EV battery manufacturer, to produce a standardized battery suitable for swapping available to other automakers.

Global use of a standardized battery format for passenger EVs is still far in the future, however. 


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Fleets Could See Battery Swaps Soon

Fleets are an area where swapping batteries will arrive sooner. “This is an appealing solution for fleets where you want to maximize downtime,” Abuelsamid said.

One company already doing battery swapping for fleets has a unique solution to the plethora of battery formats. San Francisco-based Ample doesn’t swap out the entire battery; instead, an Ample battery swap involves swapping a standardized battery module.

Ample has mainly worked with EV fleets to prove the concept, and it recently signed an agreement with Stellantis — with its stable of vehicle brands — to provide battery swaps to the automaker’s Free2Move fleet of Fiat 500e rideshare EVs in Europe starting this year. 


2024 Fiat 500e Inspired By Beauty front 3/4
Image care of Fiat

The agreement could accelerate the migration of battery swapping to passenger EVs.

The Stellantis-Ample battery swap agreement will be extended to additional Stellantis fleet and passenger car EVs around the world if the initial test proves successful. If Stellantis does decide to go mass market with Ample battery swapping, “it would work,” Le said. “The scale would eliminate the engineering costs.”

Such partnerships are incrementally moving passenger EV battery swapping closer to reality. It will one day be one of many options EV drivers can choose from to “refuel.”

“I think we will see a heterogenous ecosystem of energy replenishment for EVs. Battery swapping will be one part of that ecosystem,” Abuelsamid said.

So expect to see a swapping station near you in the future, though probably not in the near future. 


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FEATURE IMAGE: NEURON MOBILITY

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AUTHOR: 

ALYSHA WEBB

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