Ample battery swapping – introduction and advantages

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With the rapid development of the electric vehicle industry, ensuring timely supplementation of power is the key to solving the anxiety of mileage, so battery companies and electric vehicle companies have come up with multiple solutions, and battery swapping is one of them. This article will introduce one of the well-known battery swapping brands, Ample battery swapping from America.

What is Ample battery swapping

Ample is a new energy company founded in San Francisco in 2014, focusing on the research and development in the field of electric vehicle battery swapping, using modular battery to provide swapping services for any electric vehicle in a few minutes.


Development status of Ample battery swapping

Ample announced on August 19, 2022 that it had raised a total of $160 million in a new round of funding. Ample founders KhaledHassounah and JohndeSouza say they have developed a battery for electric vehicles and the whole process for automatically battery swapping. The system is said to be able to swap a depleted battery with a fully charged one within five minutes.

Ample is not the only company to have thought of this approach, their goal of replacing batteries is to get similar convenience and speed as going to the gas station, and the technology can replenish the car’s range more quickly, thus helping to drive the popularity of electric vehicles.

Ample has built 5 battery swapping stations in San Francisco aimed at serving ride-hailing, delivery and municipal fleets, for which waiting can mean revenue lost. Ample battery swapping, in partnership with Uber, aims to prove that swapping batteries can help a high-demand business like ride-hailing. But its ultimate vision is to tap into the general consumer market, where people who commute or take road trips can replace the batteries for their electric vehicles.


Battery swapping mode of Ample

Ample battery swapping stations look like a Silicon Valley-style car wash, with shiny white rounded corners. Ample says their vision is to provide an experience that is as fast, affordable and convenient as refueling. There are about two parking spaces for one Ample battery swapping station, and drive-through service is provided.

When ready for a battery swap, the electric vehicle driver just need to drive the car to approach the Ample battery swapping station, and the system will recognize the vehicle and automatically raise the door. The door slides up to reveal the platform inside.

After the driver follows the instructions on the screen inside the swapping station to the designated position, once the electric vehicle is fully parked inside, the driver starts to swap the battery through the Ample battery swapping app on the phone.

The platform at the station raises the vehicle and its passengers a few feet, and then machines inside the platform work to remove old batteries from the vehicle and install new ones. When the battery is replaced, the platform is lowered and the driver can drive with the fully charged battery on the road.

New generation of Ample battery swapping station design allows it to reduce exchange time from 10 minutes to 5 minutes. Its technology can support small passenger cars and large delivery trucks. Ample says its “shoebox-sized modular battery” can be integrated into any modern electric vehicle, and swapping stations and components can be monitored remotely. A depleted battery can be fully charged within a few hours and then installed in another vehicle.

John de Souza, Ample’s co-founder and president, said that while they can charge batteries faster, slowing them down helps delay battery aging. The number of battery swaps will be limited by the grid connection, so a 100 kW battery swapping station can charge and swap 48 batteries a day, each with a capacity of 50 KWH.


Modular design of Ample battery swapping

Ample is not the first company to look into ev battery swapping. Tesla once explored the concept and demonstrated the technology on the Model S in 2013, but it ultimately abandoned the plan in favor of its supercharging network.

For a third-party company like Better Place or Ample to make headway, it has to find a way to be compatible with the majority of electric vehicles. But getting automakers to agree on batteries is a challenge: more and more companies are choosing different battery designs and battery materials for different models.

Ample battery swapping solution is also its biggest strength – the modular system. Ample puts several smaller battery packs into a single battery frame, rather than removing the entire battery at once and installing a new one, which reduces the mechanical cost required to move the battery because the cell blocks are smaller.

On top of that, the modular design could make it easier for automakers to sign on. Ample’s vision is for automakers to leave a void for the battery when they deliver the car. Ample can then build a “box” for a particular vehicle and insert as many modules as possible into it.

The number of modules can be customized according to the size of the vehicle (a small car will have fewer modules than a large SUV) and the needs of the driver – some people may only install a few modules for daily driving, but load more on longer trips. If the battery is old, Ample battery swapping only replaces the discarded module, not the entire battery.

Until now, Ample battery swapping system is available on 13 car models. Every electric car on the road today has a different battery design, shape and chemical composition. Battery replacement needs to be standardized, and even though the modular scheme can provide some customization, the biggest limitation is still the car manufacturer, and it is difficult to install the same size modules in different vehicles.

While third-party companies like Ample are working on creating a standardized battery-swapping ecosystem, some automakers are building their own infrastructure that gives them more control over the details.

In China, NIO has established itself as a major player in the battery replacement space and has deployed around 1,400 commercial battery exchange stations. Although the company has begun to expand into European countries such as Norway and the Netherlands, the focus is still on China.

According to the company, there are about 300,000 NIO vehicles on the road, and about 60% of drivers have used the battery swapping stations. In total, the company’s swapping stations have performed 20 million battery changes, and its latest swapping station can perform 400 changes per day. Nio’s swapping station can move the battery as a whole. The company offers three battery options with different capacities, each for all vehicles it produces.


Advantages and disadvantages of Ample battery swapping

The battery swapping mode can reduce the purchase threshold of consumers and solve the problem of low residual value of new energy vehicles through the value separation of vehicle and batteries. Through the unified management of the battery and centralized slow charging, it can effectively ensure the charging safety and battery life, and also help the urban power grid to cut peaks and fill valleys and absorb more renewable energy.

In addition, in some cases, people may not be willing to stop at a fast charging station (no time or no parking space), and the battery swapping will only take a few minutes, compared to the few hours required to recharge, which can be more valuable in this case.

However, the choice of battery replacement mode also needs to consider the problem of battery swapping station cost. Not only do battery swapping companies need to build expensive swapping stations (which, according to estimates, cost about twice as much to run as equivalent fast charging stations), but they also need to maintain the complex machinery involved.

Nio and some other battery swapping companies operate by charging customers a monthly fee. For example, in Norway, the replacement price of NIO’s lowest-capacity battery is about $135 per month (the cost of fully owning the battery is about $8,500).

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