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Battery Swapping to Beat E-Vehicle Blues?


Driving an electric vehicle has environmental upsides including zero tailpipe emissions and a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to most of the vehicles you see on the road today. But, it also comes with the downside of a limited driving radius – leading to “range anxiety,” which can prevent many would-be electric vehicle owners from taking the plunge.   However, a new approach to filling up the “tank” – via battery swapping – could put this anxiety to rest.

The new Nissan Leaf can get up to 110 miles per charge, according to online Leaf enthusiasts (the EPA vouches for 100 of those miles per charge). But, this number drops significantly if you like your air conditioning or radio. Even at the peak, this driving radius would be too small for a trip from Austin to Houston (at 163 miles), much less a family adventure to the Grand Canyon. The optional 50kW DC fast charging port could allow you to recharge to 80% in about 30 minutes, assuming you can find a place to plug-in. But, that’s still a 30+ minute stop for every hour or so of driving.

One option to extend this driving range is to forget about charging your battery – but, instead, swap it for a new one. The theory is pretty straightforward – just like filling your take with gas at a filling station, electric vehicle drivers can drive up to a battery swap station and replace their “empty” battery with a “full” one.

In Japan, this option is already being tested by high-mileage cab drivers. Last week, Israel announced its first battery replacement station for individual customers.

Now, this option still runs into the chicken-and-the-egg problem faced by natural gas vehicles today. Without extensive investment in swap stations throughout the US, there will not be enough swapping stations to get drivers from point A to point B. But, it might be viable in the shorter term with strategic investments in specific areas of the United States.
[Thanks to @AmoebaMike for mentioning this article to me via twitter @mclott]

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