Battery Swapping-Is It a Success In India?

If India envisions to break out on the electric mobility front in the coming years, it is crucial to create an EV charging ecosystem alongside
Battery Swapping-Is It a Success In India?
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Co-founder & CEO of ION Energy
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As we set out towards a ‘greener environment’, the emergence of electrically powered vehicles are more evident than ever before. Discussions on electric vehicles (EVs) will inevitably gravitate towards the development of EV infrastructure. In all instances, the conversation revolves around the deployment of EV charging points as a lack of charging infrastructure is hindering the expansion of EVs. If India envisions to break out on the electric mobility front in the coming years, it is crucial to create an EV charging ecosystem alongside.

The government has been exploring different charging models keeping in mind the local conditions to kick-start faster deployment of EVs. Thus, to build India's electric car industry, the government will also have to recognize ‘battery swapping’ as a viable alternative to a vehicle's direct charging.

A recent report suggests that India's EV battery swapping market is projected to reach $6.1 million by 2030, registering 31.3 per cent growth during 2020-2030.

The need for private vehicles will increase given the new normal, where maintaining social distancing may be a norm. The need for more lightweight, yet sturdy structures running on superior quality tires will continue the pace because driven by consumer demand, the industry will push EV two-wheelers, cars in their view to make a sustainable mode of commuting, and because the companies still deploy electric fleet.

Two and three-wheelers dominate the Indian auto market, and over 80 per cent of total vehicles in India comprise two-wheelers. Battery swapping technology may witness a faster adoption in the electric two-wheeler and three-wheeler mobility segment. In this segment (small vehicle), battery swapping technology presents a leapfrogging opportunity for India's EV dreams as it offers cost-effectiveness for consumers and several comparative advantages over dedicated charging infrastructure and fossil-fuel practices in the ease of use.

The key here is to form the transition more accessible for users by finding a replacement for the prevailing petrol pump. While the industry is watching charging stations, battery swapping should is an alternate and promising charging option for two-wheelers and three-wheelers. Many manufacturers have begun with a singular solution. They're in the process of making an ecosystem of swappable battery stations in association with service providers.

Benefits of Battery Swapping 

First, swapping a battery takes only a couple of minutes, which eliminates drivers' wait time. Conventional fast and slow charging could take anywhere from 2-6 hours, respectively, for a fully charged vehicle. Taking cues from somewhat of an in-depth cousin of EVs, the CNG vehicles where refueling takes a minimum of 10-20 minutes waiting in line, EV charging experience would be ten times as inconvenient and equally undesirable. This time is precious, especially for a commercial vehicle driver. Thus, a 90-second battery swap makes excellent sense in keeping the car ready-to-use without wasting time. It will also reduce the dimensions of batteries in vehicles and offer an increased available run time.

Second, within the entire EV value chain, charging infrastructure is a vital enabler. Based on surveys by think tanks, the limited availability of charging infrastructure, including a scarcity of adequate business and financing models, is considered one of the most critical obstacles to widespread EV adoption by customers who suffer from range anxiety.

Finally, the high upfront cost of EVs is due to the high price of the battery pack, which constitutes 40-60 per cent of the value of an EV. In the case of battery swapping, the battery packs are often separated from the vehicle and owned by energy operators. Therefore the end-user will only need to pay whenever they swap the used battery with a charged one instantly.

Subsidizing the battery cost will help promote faster adoption of EVs in India. By offering financial incentives for manufacturing batteries as against the entire EV, the manufacturing of batteries too would get accelerated; technology and innovation would flourish; economies of scale would be achieved, and batteries would be both domestically produced and affordable. Battery swapping technology will tackle the challenge of the lack of common battery standards across multiple automakers and significantly lower upfront costs for two and three-wheelers in the long-run.

With the above benefits taken into consideration, the possibilities for mass-scale swappable EV battery packs are endless. The battery swapping infrastructure doesn't need any investment from the local power distribution companies and can also rely on a low current carrying capacity.

With the rapid adoption of EVs in India, there will be a need for constant innovation in the electric car industry to accommodate consumer demand. The EV market is bound to catalyze new business models, including battery swapping technology and battery charging, paving the way for economic growth and job creation.

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