Battery Swap

Standardized batteries are one of the most useful consumer goods. The idea that standardized high-capacity lithium-ion battery packs are an unavoidable next step in the development of electric cars crops up repeatedly. Battery swapping technology is something that has the capability to increase the feasibility in the working as well as marketing of EV’s.

The smartest thing electric car makers could do is settle down on a universal form factor for reusable battery packs.

But, a standardized battery pack for electric cars is highly unlikely to happen, due to different design considerations of car manufacturers.

Proprietary technology

Automakers sight the design, engineering, and control strategies of their battery packs as the core technology and a significant intellectual property.

Contrasting with standardized charging protocols, they’re not likely to sign up to use exactly the same battery pack size, shape, and capacity as their competitors.

For one thing, the pack is a core part of the car’s strength and crash structures, and the vehicle must be planned around it.

Big global automakers each have their own toolkits, architectures, or platforms that stake standardized components across many cars and they design their packs consequently.

Integrating a battery pack industrialized by someone else would force significant constraints on how they could position their components, crash structures, and the like.

Replacing packs is not an easy task

Also, making a battery pack removable imposes extra constraints on how a car can be designed.

The only car ever built with a removable battery pack is the version of the Renault Fluence ZE for the now-defunct Israeli company Better Place–used an air-cooled pack that excluded the requisite to disconnect and reconnect liquid-cooling pipes.

While Tesla established a battery swap for its Model S, which has a liquid-cooled pack, it hasn’t confirmed details of how the various connections, coolant pipes, and so forth are speedily disconnected and then reconnected within less than 120 seconds. Check Tesla Battery Swap video below and continue reading.


The bulky nature

One of the most important factors is that the pack for any kind of plug-in electric vehicle weighs 200 to 900 pounds, so it’ll never be a briefcase-sized component that we can pull out manually and swap. This means automated machinery is required, known as a swap station and that’s yet more infrastructure that electric-car makers would have to set up and install countrywide.

For all these reasons, we just don’t see it happening. We will again go through most of these points in detail in the latter half of the article.

Why is hot-swapping a challenge in the present situation?

Firstly, the pack must be a core element of the vehicle’s platform that backs basic rigidity. The “T-Pack” battery of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, for example, delivers much of the strength down the vehicle’s spine, where a transmission tunnel would be.

Removing and replacing a 500-pound battery pack in two minutes might be approximately similar to removing and replacing a car’s roof and doors in the same amount of time. Or maybe doing the same with its engine and transmission, though those have far more wires, hoses, and connectors than the pack does.

Secondly, the vehicle has to go on for 10 or more years, which could mean as many as 1,000 swaps for a high-mileage vehicle. That involves engineering new types of mountings, fasteners, seals, and connectors that have never been built.

The engineers we spoke to interrogated whether it was possible to design a safe, high-voltage connector durable to be inserted and removed that frequently. Also, keep in mind that any auto component must survive the pounding, vibrations, dirt, mud, water, and general abuse ladled out to a car’s framework and structure over hundreds of thousands of miles and up to 20 years or even more.

Next is about the pack dropping out of the bottom of the small crossover vehicle.  Such a pack is likely to be 6 inches thick or more, even accounting for the laminated cells used by Automotive Energy Supply Corp., the lithium-cell company controlled by the Nissan-Renault alliance. That’s not a deal-breaker, but it enforces noteworthy design constraints. The car is likely to be quite tall, to house not only the occupants and the thickness of the battery pack, but a false floor on top of the battery to keep the car rigid even with the pack gone.

Standardized packs are difficult to execute currently

Finally, Better Place(BP) has spoken often of its need to standardize packs to give consumers a choice of vehicles. Right now, Renault is the only company worldwide that is involved in designing cars with removable packs.

Frankly, that is not going to happen in near future. Every automaker considers its pack technology to be a core competence, similar to engine design. Given how tightly packs are united into vehicle design, few makers are going to use a pack designed by someone else.  Lithium cells, yes, but not the packs and control electronics that make hundreds of cells work in an organized way.

BP will likely launch in Israel with only a single vehicle available. We are doubtful that not every Israeli will want to drive an identical car, let alone essentially needing different vehicle types for different uses. And remember, one-car families are much more the custom in Europe and Asia, so this car may be a family’s only option.

Amidst everything, we applaud the innovation in the auto industry. And we do really hope that Better Place gets its very, very aspiring program up and running. Honestly, the automotive world could use some paradigms shifted.

You want a decent range in a car, so the battery will be large and heavy. If you put it in the front, the car will be front heavy, and it’ll be understeered. The front will break out in the corner. The same problem will occur when putting it in the back, it’ll be oversteered, which can be even more dangerous for unaware drivers. You’ll notice that a disturbed weight distribution causes bad driving behaviour in common, from a car.

Placing it too high will also root problems, the car will plunge under braking and accelerating, and it’ll roll in the corners. Hence, we can conclude that batteries are annoyingly big and heavy and awkward things that we have to get stuffed inside a car. If you make people use batteries on an exchange basis, you can only have a few standard battery sizes and arrangements, or it’ll be impracticable. This means the battery will never be ideal for a specific car. And this is why exchanging batteries aren’t a thing yet in practice.

Others often refer that diverse batteries will have a diverse quality, but we don’t think this really matters. If you have a lease contract, or if you pay per kilometre, the battery quality doesn’t matter any longer. Bad ones will just be taken out of the equation and will be recycled.

It would be practical if only a few different cars were used on the road, so the number of batteries exchange stations that we need to have in stock is also limited. Or, we’ll have to wait for battery technology to advance a lot, so we can have a good range with small and light batteries. Then the packaging would be less critical and standard battery sizes could be an explanation. Till then, we don’t think we’ll see Exchange Batteries being offered at petrol-stations.

Battery swapping stations

Battery swapping station is a place that an electric car can drive over and an automatic or a manual system can open up the bottom of the electric car, remove the exhausted battery, and insert a newly fully charged battery in its place. You can in fact picture it as robot mechanics giving an electric car a fresh battery.

Some electric car makers and tech companies want this opportunity because it is the only super-fast technique that an electric car can be charged and thus compete with gasoline cars. To instrument this technology the car itself has to be designed to be able to be opened up with a chamber on the bottom, and by quickly taking off the bolts underneath the car. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said all through the launch event that Tesla is using the same machines that it uses in the factory for its swapping stations to quickly torque the bolts on the underside of the car.

Fast charging stations like the ones that Tesla is positioning can charge an electric car in around 30 minutes, which is obviously considerably longer than it would take to pump gas. A regular electric car charger can take 8 or even 12 hours to fully charge. The range that presently available electric cars can provide is between 100 to 300 miles (at max) — if the range ever gets considerably larger, the limitations on charging becomes less of a problem, and battery swapping becomes less significant.

Better Place- The Concept Generator of Battery Swapping

Startup Better Place developed this technology several years ago to build out its electric car charging setup. Better Place founder Shai Agassi was a big advocate of battery swapping and continues to be, even after leaving the company last year. Unfortunately, poor timing and execution led to Better Place filing for bankruptcy this year.

Major challenges in the path of Battery Swapping?

For Better Place the hurdles in implementing battery swapping setup lay in convincing automakers to allow their car batteries to be swapped out. Better Place only offered one lacklustre car from Renault when it launched in Israel.

But for Tesla, which is an automaker first and foremost, they’ve already got some cars that have swappable batteries. Tesla is also building out its infrastructure in a more proprietary manner only Model S cars can charge at its Supercharges, so it’s not essentially worried about working with other automakers on making their cars work with Tesla infrastructure.

The bigger hurdle for Tesla is executing the battery swapping service so that customers appreciate it and so that it adds value financially for both Tesla and the customer. Because electric cars are at an early stage, the financing and depreciation of the batteries isn’t necessarily a known thing yet. Tesla’s other obstacle is also just maintaining the charm of its cars and brands since you need to have an in-demand product and a rising mass of customers if you’re going to build out a branded and exclusive work like this.

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