While the range of EVs has increased, there is still a fear that they might run out of charge while on the road, a concern compounded by the lack of a widespread charging network
As opposed to a fixed battery in an electric vehicle, battery-swapping allows the battery to be removed and swapped
There is a battery-swapping policy in the works and has been cited in recent Union budgets as well
India’s transition to electric mobility has seen impressive growth in recent years, especially in the two-wheeler and three-wheeler segments. It has been due to factors that have reduced the cost of owning and operating EVs, while the cost of running fossil fuel vehicles has increased. However, EVs as a category are still evolving and face challenges in addressing the diverse needs of customers. Battery swapping is one innovation in the EV ecosystem that provides solutions to challenges that fixed-battery EVs face.
EV sales in India crossed the 10 Lakh mark for the first time in 2022. They were majorly in two-wheeler and three-wheelers, which accounted for 93% of overall sales, with a number of reasons accounting for this dominance. There has been a flurry of activity, with new releases leading to consumers having a variety of choices. Improvements in technology have resulted in the performance of EVs matching that of their fossil-fuel counterparts.
But perhaps the most important reason is the continuing decline in the ownership cost of an EV. It costs a fraction to operate compared to a petrol, diesel, or CNG vehicle, and with rising fuel costs, customers have turned to EVs. Increased availability of financing options has also meant that more customers can buy them. The rapid uptake of EVs is thus a testament to increasing consumer comfort with the technology.
Concerns Slowing The Adoption
However, some issues have meant that consumer adoption of EVs in a few segments has not been rapid. These primarily have to do with cost, range, and recharge time. Though prices have been slowly declining, and financing options have increased, the high upfront payment for an EV is still a concern for customers. Despite the low operating cost throughout their lifetime, customers still face difficulties crossing the initial barrier.
While the range of EVs has increased, there is still a fear that they might run out of charge while on the road, a concern compounded by the lack of a widespread charging network. Though this is a teething issue for a technology still in its initial years and would improve as it matures and the ecosystem grows, it is still a concern for buyers at the moment.
The biggest concern, especially for customers driving commercial EVs, is charging time. It takes a few hours to recharge an EV on a slow charger, and for commercial vehicles, downtime translates to reduced revenue. For commercial fleets to transition rapidly to EVs, there has to be a way to shorten that charging time.
Battery Swapping: The Best Of Both Worlds
Innovative approaches need to be looked at to solve these issues, and one such solution is battery swapping. As opposed to a fixed battery in an electric vehicle, battery-swapping allows the battery to be removed and swapped. A depleted battery is replaced with a fully charged one at a swapping station, with the EV back in operation in minutes. This simple and quick process means that the concern of the charging time is solved, and an EV is fitted with a fully charged battery almost instantly. It also reduces the range anxiety of vehicle owners as they only need to locate a swapping station to be back on the road immediately.
Battery swapping also solves the issue of high upfront costs. The battery being the most expensive component of an EV, separating the battery from the vehicle brings the price of the EV on par with their fossil fuel counterparts. Battery swapping thus provides the benefit of an EV, that of lower operating costs, while solving the issue of high upfront costs associated with an EV. Users pay for the cost of making a swap, as they do with refuelling a petrol or diesel vehicle, making it easier for them to afford payments.
Apart from these benefits, battery swapping also makes it easier to scale up the charging network in urban areas, where space is at a premium. While fixed battery EVs need dedicated parking spots to recharge, a battery swapping station co-located with a retail store can cater to multiple vehicles. As the transition to e-mobility quickens, battery swapping provides an attractive option to planners and policymakers. This can be seen from the fact that there is a battery-swapping policy in the works and has been cited in recent Union budgets as well.
The scale of the transformation in the shift towards EVs needs a host of solutions to cater to the varied needs of consumers. Battery swapping is one such offering that addresses the issue a fixed battery EV faces while offering all the benefits EVs provide. The role of battery-swapping within the EV ecosystem is set to gain greater importance in the coming years and help speed up the transformation in mobility.