It’s not as easy as it looks

In theory, battery-swapping is a good way for electric vehicles to remain on the road longer. Depleted battery packs can be removed in favor of a fully charged replacement, and EV owners won’t have to worry as much about the amount of range they have left in the batteries. The whole process is quicker than charging a depleted battery and the process of replacing and installing sounds easy, or so it seems. Reality, however, paints an entirely different picture. Battery-swapping comes with a much more complicated procedure behind it, so much so that Volkswagen has no intention of offering the technology in the U.S. or any other market in the world. The only potential exception? China.

Volkswagen Considering Battery Swapping in China But Says No Way Jose to the United States High Resolution Exterior
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Removing the battery also means disconnecting it from the cooling system without spilling its contents

Volkswagen’s head of mobility, Christian Senger, made his point abundantly clear, telling Digital Trends that “from an engineering standpoint, it’s clear: don’t do it.”

Don’t do it. That’s it.

Senger’s position on the matter comes from understanding the difficulties of battery-swapping on an electric car, specifically the long list of structural issues that it’s going to create. According to Senger, a long-range electric car has a 1,000-pound part that’s typically sandwiched right under the passenger compartment. In other words, the battery pack is integrated into the car’s chassis. It’s part of the car’s physical structure, which means that removing a depleted pack and installing a new one isn’t as easy as removing it with screws. Even if it were easy, removing the battery also means disconnecting it from the cooling system without spilling its contents. The whole process isn’t impossible; it’s just really meticulous and painstakingly time-consuming.

“It’s like windows. In the old days, we embedded a windshield in a rubber part,” Senger said. “Nowadays, a windshield is glued in, and it helps support the whole structure. The same is true with battery packs.”

Volkswagen Considering Battery Swapping in China But Says No Way Jose to the United States High Resolution Exterior
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Volkswagen believes that its time and money will be better served on improving battery technology and adding more charging stations

Instead of taking the battery-swapping approach, Volkswagen believes — rightly so — that its time and money will be better served on improving battery technology and adding more charging stations, as opposed to making a literal mess out of battery-swapping the packs inside its electric cars.

In short, don’t expect to see any battery-swapping stations in the U.S. anytime soon, maybe ever. That also holds true in just about every market in the world. The only exception could in China where battery-swapping stations are popping across the country with the blessing of the Chinese government. These stations are being built to sustain the country’s growing electric taxi industry. In Volkswagen’s eyes, there’s an opportunity there to see if Volkswagen can adopt a similar setup for its vehicles.

“The [Chinese taxi industry] now has this battery-swapping system,” Senger said. “It’s a clever concept; sometimes it’s housed in shipping containers. The car drives in and gets a new battery pack. It’s extremely flexible. We are looking at how relevant this is for our market success in China.”

Nothing is set in stone yet, but Volkswagen’s Chinese division isn’t ready to close the door on the possibility of seeing its own battery-swapping stations in the market. Just don’t expect to see it anywhere else.

References

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Source: Digital Trends

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