CATL introduced its new EVOGO battery swap stations in China this week. Mention battery swapping in America and people roll their eyes and give you a dismissive smirk. “Been there, done that,” they seem to say. “Tesla tried it years ago, it didn’t work, so just move on. What’s next?” But an idea that seems like a silly anachronism in the US of A is gaining traction in China. NIO has been the prime mover in the battery swapping game. It now has 700 battery swapping stations in operation and is on its way to completing 3 million battery swaps. Could it be on to something?
CATL, the largest manufacturer of EV batteries in the world, certainly thinks so. On January 18, it took the wraps off its latest venture, its own dedicated battery swapping network called EVOGO. According to CnEVPost, the EVOGO battery swap solution consists of battery blocks, battery swap stations, and an app.
The battery block, called Choco-SEB (swapping electric block) by CATL, is a mass-produced battery developed specifically for shared battery swapping. It uses CATL’s latest cell-to-pack technology and has an energy density of more than 160Wh/kg. The company says a single block can provide a range of about 200 kilometers.
The battery block can be adapted to 80% of the world’s battery-electric cars already on the market and those developed on dedicated EV platforms that are scheduled to come to market in the next 3 years.
Each EVOGO battery swap station occupies three parking spaces and needs only about a minute to change a single battery block. The station can store up to 48 battery blocks, ensuring that users always have a fully charged battery block available without long waits. These battery swap stations are available in versions adapted to different regional climatic conditions, the company says.
The battery blocks can be used for passenger cars from the A00 class to the B and C classes as well as logistics vehicles. The battery swap stations can be adapted to all brands of vehicles using Choco-SEBs, eliminating concerns about adapting batteries to various models of cars.
Range anxiety is a major factor in people’s decision to buy an electric car and so they pay for more battery than they need. The EVOGO battery swap service aims to solve that problem by allowing consumers to rent batteries based on their actual needs. Consumers can rent just one battery block for their daily driving scenarios or if they are traveling longer distances, they can choose two or three blocks, CATL said. Instead of swapping batteries, the blocks can be recharged using conventional charging equipment.
The first model to support the EVOGO battery swap is the Next Automatic Taxi model from China FAW’s brand Bestune. CATL did not provide more information about the model, but in September 2021, Bestune launched a joint project with the city of Liaoyuan, Jilin province in northeastern China, to promote battery swap enabled vehicles, and delivered 500 Bestune NATs to the city. The EVOGO service will begin in 10 cities at first and will be available for more vehicle models and brands soon.
Is battery swapping for everyone? Of course not. But CATL is betting enough people will like it to make swapping batteries a sustainable business model. If nothing else, it completely eliminates the fear that many first time electric car owners have that they will be stuck with an enormous bill someday when their battery dies and needs to be replaced. The key to the adoption of new technology is taking away the fear of the unknown.
If battery swapping makes more people comfortable with the idea of driving an electric car, that’s a win for CATL, a win for EV advocates, and a win for the planet.
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