This Startup Is Enabling Battery Change In 2 Minutes For Electric Scooters, 3-Wheelers!
A 38-year-old e-shuttle driver for MetroRide, Sagyarani, pulls up to one of startup Sun Mobility’s 14 automated orange-and-black booths, taps her authentication key to open a vacant compartment, inserts a drained battery and pulls out a fully powered pack. MetroRide’s main business is more hours on the road transporting commuters to metro stations. It only cost Rs 50 to swap out a single fully discharged battery. It is about half the price of 1 liter of gasoline.
Sagyarani , in her auto rickshaw twice every five-hour shift, gives a combined range of 80 kilometers (50 miles). For Sagyarani, the china pioneered technology, battery swapping has been transformative. Though the 13 kilogram (29 pound) batteries are heavy to lift, Sagyarani said that swapping is best because I’m back on the road in five minutes. She said that “I don’t have to worry about how much charge is left”. Recharging the rickshaw at a charging station would keep her off the road for up to three hours, or more than half her shift.
Battery Swapping is essential for the country like India which wants to reduce emissions in some of the planet’s dirtiest cities and meet its goal of becoming net carbon zero by 2070. It is also seen as a way to help electrify what is the world’s largest fleet of two- and three-wheel vehicles.
But the pace of change in battery technology and reluctance among automakers to adopt standardized designs means it may not be a catalyst for passenger cars, with India lagging behind nations like China and U.K. in the take-up of EVs more broadly.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her budget spoke about the government developing policies to encourage the industry. It is harder to rollout traditional charging infrastructure due to the lack of space in India’s crowded urban areas. The government plans to standardize battery hardware design and compel automakers to follow the new norms, said Economic Affairs Secretary Ajay Seth.
China is Biggest Market, India Has The Potential To Be Next Big Market
Battery swapping is entrenched in China because it needs a critical mass of EV uptake to make it profitable. It is less popular in US and Europe due to better access to charging at home. The world’s biggest EV market is China, and a lot of drivers in China live in apartment blocks and hence do not necessarily have personal charging outlets. According to BloombergNEF, battery swapping shall flourish with companies including Nio Inc. and Geely Automobile Group planning to build more than 26,000 stations by 2025.
There is a burgeoning market for electric two- and three-wheelers in India and same is true for it as well. There are mere 1,640 operational public EV chargers, more than half of which are concentrated in nine major cities, for a nation of 1.3 billion people.
There was an incident in Bengaluru which caught the eye of the nation, wherein an ebike owner in Bengaluru had to pick his EV to 5th floor to charge it up as he was not allowed to install a charging point.
There are 1.5 million electric rickshaws, which make up to 83% of total EV sales. As opposed to sedans and SUVs, swappable batteries are a better fit for the low-speed vehicles as they deliver a shorter range.
Singh said that automakers may also push back on adopting a standardized battery design, which accounts for a major part of the way an electric vehicle is constructed and brand differentiation. When it comes to standardizing power packs, some battery developers are opposing the idea as the technology is evolving rapidly and our nation. Switching to more efficient and environmentally friendly sodium-ion batteries from the lithium-ion ones is a good choice.
Entrepreneurs Are Diving In For Battery Swapping
Entrepreneurs are diving in before the government threw its weight behind swapping. Three of the biggest impediments to EV adoption viz high upfront costs, range anxiety, and long charging times are to be tackled by Chetan Maini. He founded Sun Mobility in 2017 and it is the same company which invented India’s first electric car, the Reva. Oil trader Vitol Group and Bosch Ltd has invested in the Sun Mobility. They have bought a 26% stake in the startup. From last year’s 70, the swap-station network are to be expanded to 600.
Founded in 2018, RACEnergy sells retrofit kits to convert gasoline rickshaws into clean vehicles with removable batteries that can be swapped at one of its six stations in two cities. While most startups are largely focused on electric three-wheelers used by fleet operators, Bounce Infinity has launched an e-scooter for personal use and is planning to invest over $100 million to expand its battery swapping network.
“Battery swapping makes immense sense for the Indian market,” said Sun Mobility’s Maini. “It’s low-hanging fruit for boosting electrification.”