A San Francisco-area entrepreneur has unveiled a prototype for a new, improved battery-swapping station that could speed the process of “fuelling” up electric vehicles and getting them back on the road.
Over the last two years, Ample Inc. “has quietly deployed more than a dozen robotic battery-swap stations around the Bay Area and in Europe,” Bloomberg reports. “The company, which has raised US$270 million since it launched in 2014, is initially targeting ride-sharing and delivery fleets that can’t afford long downtimes to charge EVs.”
Ample believes effectively reducing carbon emissions requires the acceleration of EV adoption. And that, in turn, will call for a new approach to battery charging.
In May, the company demonstrated a “fully functional prototype swap station” that can change out an EV battery in five minutes, Canary Media writes. Over that very short time span, “the vehicle is precisely guided into the bay and elevated on a platform. A robot beneath the vehicle removes a battery module from the car and transports it to a charging area. The robot then selects, transports, and installs a charged module in its place.”
According to Bloomberg, battery swapping is already a popular option for drivers of electric mopeds in India and Taiwan. There are also 1,500 EV battery swapping stations in China with plans for a more than 17-fold expansion. Most of these stations, however, only offer proprietary batteries from specific vehicle manufacturers.
Bloomberg notes that in this most recent iteration, “Ample builds its own modular battery packs that can be configured for any vehicle and works with automakers to design a removable adaptor plate. So far, the company has signed partnerships with five vehicle manufacturers and designed adapter plates for 20 EV models.” In addition to the convenience of a quick swap, Ample says its approach is more affordable and efficient all around.
Ample co-founder and CEO Khaled Hassounah said the modular structure ‘costs less than $100,000, fits in a shipping container, and can be deployed in three days.” Without the standard battery, which is the most expensive component of an EV, vehicles also cost less for consumers. And the use of slow-charging technology means networks can be rolled out without having to retrofit municipal electricity infrastructure.