Back in 2008, Better Place, a company that first introduced battery swapping services, opened its first functional charging station in Israel. It filed for bankruptcy in May 2013. Mismanagement and miscalculation plunged this pioneer of battery swapping into financial difficulties. Almost nine years after its failure, CATL’s affiliate—EVOGO revived the idea of battery swapping this week by announcing similar services in ten cities in China.
According to research, EV range is one of buyers major concerns. To combat this problem, entrepreneurs and engineers have offered three solutions to fix the range anxiety of EV owners: to increase the battery capacity, to provide supercharging, and to offer the battery swapping service. Greater battery capacity usually means higher price, which deters many potential consumers. Tesla, a world-leading electric brand, has tried all of them and decided giving up the battery swapping option.
Why is that?
In response to a shareholder question regarding Tesla’s single battery swap station in Harris Ranch, Elon Musk said that the battery swap station was underused probably because the Superchargers are fast enough.
His explanation only covers part of the story. With the battery swap costing “$60 to $100,” it’s not hard to see why drivers, even those who can afford a $100,000 Tesla, would prefer the free charging of a Supercharger station. Though Tesla could accomplish a battery swap in three minutes, it had to burn lots of money to sustain the swap stations. As a result, Tesla pulled out as business model fell short.
So the question is:
Will EVOGO’s battery swapping service work after the setbacks of Better Place and Tesla?
Better Place did not have Israeli government support or subsidies for EVs. Also, automakers did not build vehicles that are compatible with its battery-swapping technology, which means the facility would be underused and unable to sustain the costs of operation.
EVOGO was born at an era when China has been pouring huge subsidies for EV owners and makers, resulting in the explosive growth of EVs on the road. EVOGO’s Choco-SEB (battery pack) has high-energy density with small size and is compatible with 80% of the EVs in the market.
EVOGO’s battery swapping effort to solve the range anxiety and consolidate CATL’s lead in the battery supply market might be a new beginning in this “short-lived” business.