Battery swapping complementary to cable charging for electric vehicles
Quick replacement of batteries in electric cars can become an important complementary technology to cable charging. This is shown in a comprehensive study on the development of the battery-swapping technology in China. The study is part of the research project ”Sweden-China Bridge”, which is a collaboration between Jönköping University (JU), Halmstad University, Lund University and the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI).
The project ”Sweden-China Bridge – Creating a Collaborative Academic Platform for Electrification of Transportation Systems” started in autumn 2020. The purpose of the project is to develop an academic and industrial platform for knowledge transfer between Sweden and China regarding the electrification of transportation systems.
Recently, the first larger study within the project was completed. In this study, the researchers have investigated the technology called battery swapping, which involves the simple and quick replacement of a discharged battery by a fully charged one.
“We have investigated the technology as such, but also what consequences it has on, for example, energy supply and the business models for the commercialisation of the technology,” says Tomas Müllern, Professor of Business Administration at Jönköping International Business School, JU, and one of the researchers in “Sweden-China Bridge”.
So far, cable charging is the most common charging technology around the world, but the study shows that battery swapping can function as an important complement. The battery-swapping technology can enable large-scale electrification of the vehicle fleet in large cities, where the access of charging infrastructure for cable may be limited.
“Battery swapping also has the advantage that the size of the batteries can be smaller. When the system of battery-charging stations is developed, you can drive longer distances even with a smaller battery, since you can make a quick side stop – for only a couple of minutes – and have your battery replaced,” says Mike Danilovic, Professor of Industrial Organisation at Halmstad University and the project leader of “Sweden-China Bridge”.
One significant component of the battery-swapping concept is the new business model, which the researchers have identified in the Chinese market for electric vehicles. According to this model, the prices of the vehicle, batteries and charging are separated. The customer buys the car, buys or rents a battery of suitable size, and pays a subscription fee for charging.
“This enhances the flexibility and security for the customers. As a customer, you may rent the kind of battery that you currently need and you are spared from worries about the battery’s durability,” says Mike Dinilovic.
The study also shows a number of challenges connected to the battery-swapping technology. For instance, it requires that the vehicles are built for battery swapping from the beginning and that different vehicle producers use standardised technical solutions, so that the automated stations for battery swapping can handle vehicles from different brands.
“It is critical that car companies, battery producers and operators of the stations have the will and ability to cooperate around the development of the charging infrastructure. The different parties also need to be willing to leave old roles and business models to find new common solutions that create value for the customers and distribute risks, costs and profits in a fair manner,” says Tomas Müllern.