Battery swapping technology for electric vehicles

UPDATED SEP 24, 2021 - 15 MIN READ

Q: First of all, what exactly is battery swapping technology?

A: Electric vehicles have rapidly grown in popularity globally in the last decade. They provide a lower cost alternative and are less air polluting than traditional vehicles, that we call Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles. Any electric vehicle be it a 2 wheeler, 3 wheeler or 4 wheeler, has an electric motor and this motor is powered by a stack of batteries. Now, these batteries need to be charged repeatedly and the technology that provides us with charged batteries within no time is, nothing but, battery swapping technology.

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Q: How does battery swapping different from battery charging?

A: The electric vehicle automobile market is flourishing in India and the demand for electric vehicles is on an increasing trend. Electric vehicles need efficient and smart techniques for recharging the batteries. The battery charging and battery swapping are the two potential methods for providing the chargeable batteries for electric vehicles.

Conventional battery charging has low operational efficiency for vehicles and takes a lot of time for charging the batteries whereas fast charging takes less time but leads to rapid battery degradation. These concerns have given rise to the emergence of battery swapping technology, where electric vehicle driver experience minimum downtime to replace the discharged batteries with fully charged ones. This is a more energy efficient operation and requires less installation area

Parameters Battery Charging Battery Swapping (BS)
Time Minimum 25-30 minutes for charging 2-3 minutes for swapping
Infrastructure Simple but slow charging No pollution
Batteries Simple and fixed in vehicle More complex but fast swapping
Ownership Cost Very High Reduced
Service charges High Low
Energy saving Less More
Battery life Reduced Improved
Level of communication Low High
Battery safety Minimal safety is required High level of safety is required
Physical space More space for charging station Less space for swapping station

Q: What is the need for battery swapping technology?

A: The charging time has always been a significant issue since the introduction of electric vehicles in the market. Typically, the charging time varies from 30 minutes to even 12 hours, depending on the size of the battery pack and the type of charger.

In comparison, an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicle has refuelling time of only 5-7 minutes. Battery swapping allows a consumer to instantly replace the batteries (rather than require charging), thereby saving time and revenue of fleet operators and consumers. Therefore, battery swapping technology allows wider adoption of electric vehicles

Q: What is a Battery Swap Station?

A: Battery swapping technology allows the EV consumer to exchange the discharged batteries from his vehicle with the charged batteries. Electric vehicle driver can replace the drained batteries at a BSS i.e. Battery Swap Station. BSS is a kind of charging station with different battery slots. Each slot carries a charging mechanism and a display facility that tells the charging status of the battery placed in it. Therefore, a group of batteries are simultaneously charged at a BSS and once the battery gets fully charged, then it can be taken away by the driver. So, the EV driver can keep his discharged battery in the vacant slot for charging and take a fully charged battery from another slot at the same time

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Battery swapping technology not only provides a quick solution for refuelling but it also allows its users to pay-per-use. The EV driver has to pay only for the swapped battery, making it a cost effective option for its drivers

Q: What are the benefits of battery swapping technology?

A: EV battery swapping market is growing significantly in India because of its time and operational benefits. It allows superfast charging for electric vehicles and it is becoming popular with delivery, services and fleet managers. Here are the advantages of battery swapping:

  • Saves time: EV drivers can swap a drained battery for a fully charged battery in 8-10 minutes which is much less in comparison to full recharging of the batteries
  • Reduced ownership cost: As the batteries can be considered as a separate entity and can be owned by energy operators, the upfront cost drastically decreases
  • Good battery Life: There is an increase in battery life because of slow charging speed of battery
  • Low swapping expenses: EV driver has to pay only for the swap battery i.e. pay-per-use
  • Allows self-service: Swapping allows the exchange of batteries so it can be easily manageable for all groups of EV users

Q: Are there any challenges associated with battery swapping technology

A: 1. Lack of standardization: Batteries, vehicles and charging infrastructure need to be standardised for the smooth exchange of discharged batteries at any swapping station.
2. Complexity in battery designing: The swapping involves the removal and reattaching of battery again and again therefore the battery needs to be designed for such operations.
3. Battery security: As the battery is removable, it can result in the theft of these batteries.
4. Interfaces required: Strong interfacing mechanism is required for maintaining the communication with the battery whether it is inside or outside the vehicle.

Q: What is LS- VBCC?

A: In the battery swapping method, the battery plays a significant role in the entire value chain. The batteries used in the swapping procedure are removable from the vehicle. For charging the discharged battery, it has to be taken off from the electric vehicle and submitted at the battery swap station. Another battery which is fully charged, can be taken from Battery Swap Station and the driver can place this fully charged battery in his vehicle. Now, these discharged batteries are taken care of by the service providers. They manage to charge these batteries at a safe place where a bulk charging facility is created for these batteries. Once the batteries get fully charged, they are safely placed at BSS for swapping of discharged batteries. In this situation, the safety of the battery matters a lot to the service providers.

Therefore, in absence of standardization for the battery swapping procedure, Centre of Battery Engineering and Electric Vehicle – IIT Madras, together with some major industry players has defined a communication protocol. This protocol known as Locked Smart-Vehicle-Battery-Charger-Cloud protocol (LS-VBCC), is used for communication among the major swapping components such as batteries, vehicles, chargers and users. LS-VBCC protocol ensures the safety of batteries by designing the swappable batteries as locked smart batteries as it is an asset for an electric vehicle owner and its safety is ensured while operating in battery swapping scenario. Thus, this restricts the misuse and theft of these swappable batteries. This protocol suite also offers a user-friendly smart charging technology platform for EV owners and OEMs. Further, these locked smart batteries record and relay the exact condition of their usage and state of cells in every trip. The Central Management server is updated about this status regularly, which is helpful in efficient utilization of these batteries. This helps in achieving maximum life-cycles and good mileage from the electric vehicles

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Q: What are the different initiatives undertaken by the Government of India to promote battery swapping technology?

A: The government has allowed the sale and registration of 2-wheeler and 3-wheeler electric vehicles without batteries. This delinks battery cost from the vehicle cost, thus reducing the upfront cost for customers. At the same time, this encourages adoption of the battery swapping model. Several state governments have also announced various schemes to encourage development of battery swapping stations. A few of these initiatives include –

Government of Andhra Pradesh (Source: “Electric Mobility Policy 2018-23”)

  • Capital subsidy of 25% of fixed capital investment up to a maximum subsidy of INR 10 lakhs for swapping stations for the first 50 stations
  • All external infrastructure such as power supply, water supply, roads will be provided at the doorstep of the industrial unit, charging & battery swapping stations at 50% of the cost of the infrastructure with an overall limit of INR 2 crores per project
  • 100% net State Goods and Services Tax (SGST) as reimbursement for purchase of advanced batteries for swapping

Government of Madhya Pradesh (Source: Electric Vehicle Policy 2019)

  • Land across major cities will be allocated for private developers for setting up charging or battery swapping stations
  • Existing private buildings such as malls and other commercial buildings will be incentivised to setup charging/battery swapping stations

Similar such policies have been drafted or finalized in the states of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala and many others

However, the central and state governments still need to work together to have a comprehensive set of policies that encourage battery swapping technology. Various industry bodies are also recommending the policymakers and the government to promote battery swapping technology to push the adoption of electric vehicles in India. Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) has requested the government to include a battery swapping model of charging under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles (FAME II) scheme of the Department of Heavy Industry.

FAME II policy currently provides incentives for creating charging infrastructure. FICCI has recommended extending the incentives to companies offering battery swapping solutions. FICCI, in its detailed position paper, has highlighted that it is important that the government should recognize Battery Swapping services, also a critical part of the overall electrification of mobility and need to incentivize the infrastructure that will be required to set up such services.

Q: Discuss about the emerging trends in battery swapping

A: Globally, battery swapping is gaining traction and is resulting in emergence of some new and promising trends –

Faster growth in the two-wheeler segment: Among different vehicle type categories, two-wheeler is gaining maximum traction in the swapping market. This is because of the usage of two-wheelers in last mile delivery where it is difficult to charge for a long number of hours and swapping technology provides an immediate solution. In India, battery swapping is especially getting adopted in the three-wheeler vehicle category that is used for the commute of passengers and a shorter downtime is more attractive to vehicle owners.

Different payment models: Customers typically pay for batteries on either subscription basis (i.e. monthly fixed charges) or pay-per use basis (i.e. on the basis of usage). Pay-per-use model is expected to grow at a faster pace than subscription model. This is owing to customers’ preference for usage based pricing, particularly in shared e-mobility. In the case of electric buses, where the route is fixed and known, the subscription model is popular.

Focus on collaboration and partnerships: OEMs, battery manufacturers, research institutions and industry bodies are forming alliances and joining together to build new innovative solutions and deploy battery swapping technology

Q: Who can help with battery swapping solutions?

A: Esmito Solutions, is building a reliable EV ecosystem by providing the latest battery swappable solutions. We offer a complete battery swapping package comprising swap station, swapping platform, locked smart swappable battery and vehicle control unit.

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We provide swapping solutions through our IoT enabled, cloud-based software integrated battery swapping technology. Our smart battery swapping stations also come with a virtual locking of batteries via our proprietary battery swapping protocol. We offer CAN enabled smart swapping batteries for electric two wheeler and electric three wheeler applications

Our battery swapping software platform enables energy operators to remotely monitor all business metrics in a single dashboard. Additionally, the cloud-based platform tracks the battery health and assures long life cycles making these smart swappable batteries more economical to end users.

Esmito’s swapping solution provides the safe, simple and hassle free swapping of depleted batteries with the fully charged ones. We ensure convenience, simple digital authentication, easy digital payment procedures for the swapped battery and make the swapping solutions hassle free for the electric vehicle consumers