Battery swapping becomes viable at a scale of 10 vehicles, each travelling 60+ km a day: Ashwin Shankar

Ashwin Shankar, CEO – BatteryPool, discusses the basics of electric vehicle battery swapping systems, the economic incentive for fleets to use battery swapping for their recharging needs and how their battery agnostic solution can provide the necessary support. The start-up has 50+ swapping stations deployed across India.

What are the different parts of the ‘Battery Swapping’ ecosystem?

Different parts of the swapping ecosystem are:

– Swappable Battery Manufacturer

– Swap Station Manufacturer

– Swapping software provider

– Swapping station operator

– Driver/Rider of the vehicle with swappable battery

For fleets, how do you compare charging vs swapping in terms of financial advantage considering capital and operating expense?

With charging, the fleets will experience downtime due to the time taken to recharge their vehicles. This downtime can be up to 3 hours for electric 2Ws and 3Ws, leading to lost revenue and decreasing the utilization of the vehicles on their fleets.

Due to this downtime, fleets with ~10 vehicles can lose up to Rs. 1 lac per month.

With swapping, while they may have to invest in the swapping station and the additional battery packs, they are able to eliminate this downtime and maximize the utilization of their EVs.

The payback period on the investment in the swapping stations and spare batteries is typically 5 months. Battery swapping becomes viable at a scale of ~10 vehicles, each of which travels 60+ km per day.

Can you comment on ownership of batteries in case of battery swapping solutions?

We believe that the ownership of the batteries cannot lie with the rider of the EV as the battery packs will enter and exit the swapping ecosystem. As such, battery packs are either financed and owned by the fleet/swapping operator or financed by a financier and leased out to the operator of the swapping stations. In some instances, battery manufacturers may opt to be the financiers of the packs and lease them out to operators and fleets.

What does the BatteryPool solution comprise of?

BatteryPool provides the entire technology stack for swapping of battery packs. We provide IoT enabled, battery agnostic swapping stations and an API-first software ecosystem that fleets can integrate into their existing software ecosystems. This station can integrate with battery packs being used by fleets and swapping operators in their business. We also work with our battery manufacturing partners to provide an integrated solution to operators needing battery packs with the station.

When you say a battery agnostic swapping station, what does it mean?

We customize the mechanical enclosures as per battery dimensions, chargers as per power requirements and the battery communication protocols according to the BMS in the packs used in the fleets.

How will you handle a case where a fleet operator has more than one type of battery packs in terms of dimensions? They might also have vehicles from different OEMs in the fleet.

We would design the solution to accommodate all the different types of packs being used in the fleet/swapping operations. However, we have seen fleet/swapping operators eventually converge on a single battery pack form factor and communication protocol to reduce variability in their operations.

What were the main challenges you encountered while manufacturing battery swap stations?

Our biggest challenge in building these IoT smart stations was to build for challenging conditions of low network, dust, extreme temperatures and power outages. At the same time, the swap solution caters to 2W and 3W use cases – users of which are extremely value-conscious and in some cases only semi-literate. These were unique engineering challenges that we dealt with while building and deploying our 50+ stations.

While our swap stations may not be as fancy to look at compared to our foreign counterparts, they are built to be robust and meet the use case of 2/3W EVs.

Cover image source: Batterypool website

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