Real cost of battery swapping : Opinion

Real cost of battery swapping

Let’s discuss about battery swapping for electric two wheelers in India. Basic concepts, merits and demerits, challenges and limitations of battery swapping and cost of battery swapping will be discussed. Here I am discussing the scenario for the single user and not for the e rickshaws, fleet owners of shared mobility and delivery.
Everyone knows that future is electric. Transition to electric vehicles is inevitable. But most people have only one concern for EVs and that is range anxiety. Many companies across the world have tried to solve that problem with battery swapping method. Some have succeeded and some failed. As a technical person and market observer of EVs from past two years, I am sharing my observation and opinion here. So, Lets begin!
What is battery swapping?
Battery swapping is method of quickly extending usable range of electric vehicles by exchanging depleted batteries with charged batteries.
How it is done?
Just like ATM and beverage vending machines, battery swapping stations are deployed in different areas of cities. Most of the times they are unmanned and swapping is done by the vehicle owner. Payments are done digitally.
Advantages from user perspective:
  • Initial cost of vehicle gets reduced by at least 30%. Because batteries are owned by the company.
  • When you think about range anxiety, you may love this concept. Just swap and go!
But have you ever thought if it is swapping your pocket also !?
Disadvantages of battery swapping:
Instead of riding with me on pillion seat, I want you to ride the horse along with me!
I will just ask questions to ignite the thought process in your mind! Answer them and decide on your own!
  • When you compare battery swapping with petrol vehicles, your running costs are slightly lower. But have you ever compared it with regular electric scooter’s running cost?
  • What is your average distance and maximum distance covered on your two wheeler? Is it higher than the range provided by current electric two wheelers? (60+ kms?)
  • Will you like to lift, walk & swap your 6-12 kg batteries everyday? or even alternate days? That also for usage within the city below 80 km!
  • How much extra money are you spending just to fulfill that hypothetical insecurity of range anxiety, that also within the city?
  • If a company is temporarily providing very cheap rates for swapping by burning their own cash, are you willing to pay higher cost when they stop mercy and want to start making profit ?
Challenges and Limitations of swapping:
There is a lot more difference in “Thinking” and “Doing it regularly”. When you think about swapping, you don’t feel it. You may cannot imagine what physical experience it may bring. Let’s dive deep into this topic!
In most Battery swapping methods, batteries are own by companies and vehicles are sold without battery, that brings down vehicle costs by approx. 35-40%. This makes sale price of EVs in line with Petrol vehicles.
The main challenge for the company is, designing and balancing every aspect of the vehicle. For good performance and long range, you need more powerful and higher capacity battery. That will make it heavy. Swapping a 10-15 kg battery is unpleasant experience for any user if done routinely. Lighter (small capacity) battery may not provide sufficient range and/or power.
Battery chemistry is also a major concern when it comes for a company who is providing swappable batteries. If you don’t know much about battery chemistry, we recommend you to quickly read the article here and come back. For lighter battries, NMC chemistry is routinely practiced, but it comes at a cost. That is short life. Typically 1000 charge cycles at 20°C temperature. And you very well know about Indian temperature range! That may provide lesser usable life. And this short life will also increase running costs.