Torque Shop: Does battery swopping work for EVs?, Motoring News & Top Stories

Why can’t electric vehicle (EV) batteries be removable and interchangeable so that they can be swopped the way we do with cordless appliances? It would save a lot of time and ease range anxiety.

The idea is appealing. All you need is a pair of batteries so that when the one you are using runs out, you swop it with the charged unit sitting in the charging dock.

But if you own a power tool, you will know that batteries are not interchangeable among different brands even if they are of the same voltage.

EV manufacturers are no different from power tool makers when it comes to battery design and technology. Each battery has its own proprietary energy storage pack that is ultimately intended to set it apart from the competition.

The battery packs in EVs are designed as an integrated component of the car’s chassis, based on a variety of design parameters.

Even within one automotive group, the batteries are rarely interchangeable between models.

Adding to the complexity is the various connections to the coolant network within an EV’s battery pack.

All this therefore pulls the plug on the case for a standard battery format – not to mention the business case for a battery swop station that would need to hold stocks of a huge range of battery packs.

Even if feasible, battery swopping is resource-intensive because at least two batteries are needed for one vehicle.

Then there is the work involved. With a 400-volt lithium-ion battery pack, the process of removing and installing batteries is far more complicated than what is involved in replacing 12-volt lead acid batteries in petrol cars.

For efficiency and reliability, you will need a fully robotised facility with some rather sophisticated electro-mechanisation and built-in safety systems.

For all these reasons, battery swopping for EVs is impractical, costly and might entail as much time as juicing up at a fast charger.

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