EV Hardware & Software

The 5-Minute EV Pit Stop: EV Battery Rental Goes Mainstream

Even with DC fast charging, EV charging still takes more than twice the time it takes to fuel a gas- or diesel-powered car. A new concept out of China — EV battery rental — might change all that.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

It’s a five-minute pit stop for your EV where you can get a fully charged battery faster than you could pump and pay for a full tank of gas. But that’s only one of the many benefits EV battery swapping brings to the table. Here are some ways this promising new technology can prove a game-changer for the EV charging industry.

A No-Hassle Subscription

Imagine the convenience for your charging customers if they didn’t have to worry about what to do with their EV’s battery when it finally loses the capability to hold a charge. If you’re open to the possibility, you could add batteries-as-a-service (yes, another aaS acronym to remember — in this case, BaaS).

Charge them a monthly subscription fee, and they’d lose the long wait to charge their cars — and the hassle of disposing of their battery once it’s outlived its useful life. They’d always have fresh batteries, and your station and its personnel would handle all the hassle.

Easy-Peasy Charging Capability

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Chinese automaker Nio’s vision was to give EV owners the utmost convenience while charging. Imagine the potential if your customers could pull out their phones, press a button on their app, and sit inside their cars while an automated platform unscrews their near-empty battery and installs a fresh one.

As Technology Review’s Casey Crownhart points out, the ease of five-minute battery swaps could drive car owners across America to consider an EV for their next vehicle purchase. Who couldn’t love a pit stop that rivals NASCAR for its speed and ease?

No pumping fuel, no stinky gasoline hands for the next 20 minutes of the drive. They are faster than a drive-in oil change, and drivers never need to get out of their cars.

Cheaper Upfront Electric Vehicle Costs

If American automakers adopt the Nio model for customers who want the convenience of five-minute EV charging, those customers will also pay less for their cars. Norwegian Nio buyers are already reaping the benefits of lower sticker prices for their EVs — a savings of $8,500 for one vehicle, the Nio ES8.

More Charging Options for Your Customers

Image via Freepik

Charging stations need not drop their regular charging service for battery rentals. As Crownhart advises, some EV owners might want to own their cars’ batteries still and handle the charging themselves.

Offering more charging options gives you, the station owner, a wealth of amenities you could offer. From restaurants to shopping to sparkling-clean restrooms, there are plenty of opportunities for you to provide your customers a spot to relax and refresh themselves for the next leg of their journey — no matter whether they prefer a quick battery swap or a leisurely charge.

Greater Ease in Servicing EV Batteries

Like your local car rental company checks each rental car as it comes in, a battery-swapping station can check each battery for issues whenever a driver exchanges it for a fresh one. The result, says Nio’s Fei Shen, is a fleet of well-maintained batteries, each ready for the next customer.

A Growing Trend Among EV Carmakers

Early in its development, the Nio model faced heavy criticism for the massive infrastructure required to offer battery-swapping as a service. But as its word-of-mouth reputation for convenience spread worldwide, so did its appeal.

Nio now has 2,200 charging stations operating worldwide, and other carmakers are catching the battery rental wave. Chinese automakers Changan and Geely were the first to jump on the battery rental bandwagon, adding trucks to the mix and making the service an attractive option for EV fleet operators.

As for automakers better known on the American side of the pond, Volvo has joined the carmakers offering the service. Battery rentals in Europe have become a trend, with 30 new stations having opened across five European countries, with more on the way.

It’s only a matter of time before this trend will make its way across the pond to the Americas. US charging infrastructure providers should also prepare to meet the likely battery rental demand here.

Image via Freepik

Meeting the Challenges of EV Battery Swapping

EV battery swapping isn’t without its challenges, however. US charging companies need to evaluate and meet these challenges before jumping into the market feetfirst:

  • Battery compatibility issues. With the variety of EV brands available to American buyers, battery rental stations must either stock a wide range of EV batteries or encourage battery standardization across the auto manufacturing industry.
  • High supporting infrastructure costs. Obtaining the funding for this new technology might be a challenge for American EV charging businesses. Automated battery swapping platforms and the number and variety of batteries they’ll need to get the service off the ground could prove costly to cash-strapped EV charging stations that want to offer the service.
  • Competition from longer-range vehicles. With the influx of ultra-long-range EVs likely to enter the market soon, owners of those cars might want to stick with traditional charging services. After all, they’ll likely need rest after driving for over 400 miles — the range some newer vehicles offer.
  • Limited space for battery storage and infrastructure. For rural stations, space for storage and infrastructure shouldn’t present an insurmountable challenge. However, in crowded urban environments, charging station owners might need more space than they have available. Choosing an initial location with room to grow is essential for effective operation in city environments.
  • A skeptical clientele. Like any new idea, a battery rental service needs an informative marketing campaign to introduce the concept to its target market. Videos demonstrating the convenience and ease of the service, catchy ads touting the speed at which EV owners could charge their cars, and thoughtful FAQ sections on the company website can win the hearts and minds of even the most skeptical EV owners.

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