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Swapping electric vehicle (EV) batteries isn't new, Tesla came up with the concept in 2013, but back then individual EV owners didn't take to the idea. Solving long-haul "range anxiety" and eliminating charge time isn't as much of a problem for individual consumers, but it certainly is for fleet managers.
This HERE graphic illustrates the rise of EV sales over a ten-year period.
Luckily, after seven years in the making, automotive brand Ample launched a new battery swapping system in 2021. With approximately US$280 million in funding, the company is now offering cities battery swapping stations.
About the size of two regular parking spots, Ample's EV swap stops don't require any permanent infrastructure and can be placed conveniently at gas stations, grocery stores or parking lots. Once installed, drivers with compatible EVs can pull up to a station where a robotic arm will reach out and swap their used batteries with “LEGO-like" modularity (the key to Ample's success). The whole thing takes approximately ten minutes.
While this sounds like a one-size-fits-all solution, Ample designed their tech with fleets in mind, partnering with Uber in San Francisco for their first installation. They're also working with Sally, an EV rental company that's helping bring the concept to NY, LA and Chicago.
Reduction in costs related to charging infrastructure and time saved are the two biggest benefits for fleet owners. Ample's CEO and Co-Founder Khaled Hassounah, told Greenbiz, “While building enough chargers for a fleet usually costs in the millions, tapping into Ample's network of battery-swapping stations costs [nothing] upfront."
The company pays for the expense of building stations and then charges users a per-mile fee for the energy — about 20% cheaper than gas.
Saving time is also important, particularly for electric delivery fleets. With Ample's new system, EVs are ready in a matter of minutes, helping brands increase the number of transports, pick-ups and drop-offs overall.
Take a closer look at the robotics behind EV battery swapping in this short video from Ample.
When supported by an automated solution like EV routing and HERE Last Mile, EV fleet owners can take full advantage of Ample's time-saving design. Fleet managers can plan daily routes according to battery lifespan, required stops and the location of charging stations.
Alex Osaki, Product Marketing Manager for HERE Technologies commented: “Through the HERE Last Mile app, HERE can limit EV vehicle range when allocating jobs. For example, if your delivery EV has a range of 100 miles, the HERE Last Mile app can help you ensure that a longer route isn't assigned to that vehicle, making sure that the EV reaches its swap station in time and within the ETA."
Also, HERE Advanced Data Sets offers route grade and altitude data, two important variables when estimating route efficiency for EV fleets.
From a brand that says, “Let's Get One Billion Electric Vehicles on the Road" comes an innovative and forward-thinking system that's sure to make electricity simpler than gas.
P.S. If you think charging is cheaper, Chinese EV owners are swapping batteries for as little as seven dollars.