How the renewed emergence of battery-swapping could benefit urban mobility
The first startup in the battery-swapping industry emerged in 2007 in Israel. After raising $850 million from prominent investors, Better Place kicked off its battery-swapping initiatives with ambitious targets. In 2013, having sold only 750 cars and lost more than $500 million, the first battery-swapping adventure ended dramatically for its investors.
No matter the acceleration of EV across the world, battery-swapping is not an easy undertaking in the electrification process. Tesla also had high hopes when it established a battery-swapping service in 2013. The service was largely placed off the shelf with little interest from drivers in 2015.
But what was missing in those attempts? According to Chinese battery manufacturer CATL, the failure lies in the factors which trigger range anxiety. EV owners prefer cars with big batteries, but in the city, the daily usage is around 10-20% of the capacity, ending in high costs for drivers. Eventually, battery-swapping appeared to be a wise equation complementing electrification for specific markets, which appeared as “smart electric transportation and urban battery swapping.”
Right timing, right geography
Horace Lue, who worked as the CCO of Taiwanese consumer electronics giant HTC, launched Gogoro along with HTC’s former CFO, Matt Taylor in 2011. Their aim was not city EVs but e-scooters, one of the main transportation methods of the APAC region.
The Gogoro Smartscooter was launched in 2015. Unlike the other e-scooters in Taiwan, Gogoro expanded its customer base with continuously growing battery-swapping stations - GoStations. According to Taipei Times, by expanding the customer base with increasing local partnerships, the number of GoStations reached 2,215 at the end of 2021. It is expected to exceed the number of gas stations in the country, which stands at 2,487.
According to AFP, Gogoro reached 450,000 riders in Taiwan by January 2022. Since 2015, the Gogoro riders has swapped more than 240 million batteries, doing 330,000 on a daily average. Gogoro also peaked sales in December 2021, representing 28% of all the two-wheeled vehicles sold in Taipei. The company says they avoided more than 360.000 tonnes of CO2 since 2015 through battery-swapping.
What is the secret formula?
The battery-powered e-scooters have undoubtedly come with a higher price. But Gogoro eliminated that cost for the drivers by enabling the purchase of the vehicles without a battery. Additionally, the data analyses run at the GoStations offer dynamic pricing to motivate drivers to swap their batteries out of rush hours. According to Gogoro, the average swapping time is 96 seconds on average.
GoStations run on the battery energy they store while can transfer energy to the power grid when necessary, presenting the benefits of smart mobility in cities.
One of the leading companies in global lithium-ion batteries, Chinese CATL is another company with a successful strategy in the battery-swapping industry. CATL aims to provide an innovative modular battery-swapping solution through its chocolate bar looking battery, Choco-SEB.
Each 26.5 kW/h block is enough to power an EV about 200 km. Most importantly, CATL says its system is compatible with 80% of global BEV platform-based vehicle models available in the market. The company plans to release BEV based platforms globally in three years, including Tesla.
The logic is similar to Gogoro’s: a BEV would need three blocks of Choco-SEB to ensure full range. But customers can swap only one block in the city and rent an additional two for long-range travels.
CATL’s battery-swapping service will be launched in “Evogo” stations, equipped with 48 battery blocks. CATL says it will take only a minute to swap a single block. CATL’s swapping pack, which utilizes a battery management system (BMS), is compatible with existing onboard chargers and home charging systems.
One innovative side is wireless battery management technology (BMS). The block only carries high-voltage terminals on the exterior, compatible with existing onboard and home charging systems, according to CATL.
Announced last month, Evogo will primarily be launched in 10 cities.
Next phase is called 'collaboration'
According to Bloomberg, global sales of electric motorbikes, scooters and mopeds are estimated to have reached 25 million units in 2020. This number represents 35% of total sales of two-wheeled vehicles.
Looking at the future strategies of Gogoro and CATL, it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that APAC will be leading the battery-swapping revolution, mainly with the two-wheelers.
While Gogoro is expanding into countries of e-motorcycles and e-scooters, CATL is finding new customers and partners to advance battery technology:
- Gogoro partnered with Hero Motocorp in April 2021, the world’s world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer. Surprisingly, Hero doesn’t operate in China,
- Gogoro announced a partnership with Chinese Yadea and DCJ in May 2021. The former is the largest electric scooter manufacturer globally and the latter is the largest two-wheeled vehicle manufacturer in China.
- Gogoro partnered with Foxconn, transferring the manufacturing process to the Chinese company while focusing on R&D, marketing and distribution.
- CATL and RCS Global Group joined forces to develop a responsible battery supply chain in October 2020,
- CATL formed a strategic partnership with German BASF to promote solutions in battery recycling in September 2021,
- CATL partnered with auto parts supplier ZF to enhance after-sales services in December 2021,
- NIO chose CATL in August 2021 to offer a battery swapping service.
Interestingly, 99% of the two-wheelers in India are gas-powered, while 90% of the two-wheelers in China are electric. This means the expertise of CATL and efficiency of Gogoro Network will play a crucial role in countries like India, Indonesia, and other APAC countries towards electrification.
What are others doing?
Two-wheelers lead the battery swapping market at the moment, but it is just a matter of time until it spreads to passenger and commercial vehicles.
- Chinese EV manufacturer plans to have 4,000 battery-swapping stations globally by 2025,
- NIO exceeded 500.000 battery swaps in 2020, reaching 700 battery-swap stations in China.
- NIO brought battery-swapping services to Norway along with its EV, the first European market it entered in 2021.
- After seven years of the development phase, Ample says its battery-swapping system is ready to swap in 10 minutes.
- Collaborating with ten global automakers, Ample is also working with Uber to provide battery-swapping service to a fleet of Nissan Leafs in San Francisco.
The main image is courtesy of Gogoro,
The first in-article image shows Gogoro batteries, courtesy of Gogoro,
The second in-article image shows CATL Choco-SED battery blocks, courtesy of CATL,
The third in-article image shows the NIO battery-swap station in China, courtesy of NIO.