Battery Swapping: A Way To Get Your EV Charged Under 10 Mins And Help Reduce Oil And Gas Emissions.
Originally published on Forbes.com on September 20, 2022
Sometimes called the holy grail of electric cars, a startup called Ample is getting close to re-charging batteries as quickly as filling up with gas at the pumps.
Why is this topic important to the oil and gas industry? The growth of electric vehicles (EVs) means less gasoline and this means less crude oil. President Biden’s goal is for 50% of new car sales to be EVs by 2030. A zero-sum analysis of energy consumption in the US showed this implies a drop of 34% in crude oil demand in just 8 years from now.
The main push for EVs lies in exhaust emissions. While a typical internal combustion car engine releases 4.6 metric tons of carbon emissions per year, EVs release zero. The transport sector of the US economy is responsible for 30% of all carbon emissions. The oil and gas industry, which provides gasoline for cars and trucks, causes about 50% of the world’s carbon emissions.
EVs run on electricity and this is supplied by batteries carried in the car. When driving around town, the battery gradually depletes but can be recharged, typically via a public charging station or in one’s own garage overnight. An EV battery needs recharging after 250 miles for most models, 400 miles for a Tesla Model S Long Range model, or 500 miles for a Lucid Air EV.
But there’s a problem: recharging a battery takes 30-60 minutes or longer. However, a new company called Ample has invented modular battery swapping stations in which depleted EV batteries are automatically exchanged for fresh, fully-charged batteries.
Using an interface tray, about the same size as the original factory battery, Ample automates and inserts under the EV enough modular batteries to add up to the original storage capacity. So, the carmaker doesn’t have to re-engineer the battery design.
Here is an interview with Khaled Hassounah, co-founder and CEO of Ample, to explain the advantages of battery swapping as an alternative to the standard one-car, same-battery-always method.
I’ve heard that Ample offers a fast and easy way to charge an EV battery. Can you briefly explain the method?
We are pioneering a new method of EV charging known as modular battery swapping that delivers a 100% charge to EVs for any make or model in a fast, low-cost way. It works by using automated technology to replace depleted EV batteries with fully charged ones. Once batteries are removed, they are racked on shelves, monitored, and charged to be ready for the next vehicle.
By breaking up 1,000-pound EV batteries into small shoebox-sized modular ones, modularity has a number of advantages including:
- The ability to charge any brand or size EV by sorting the modular batteries in a Lego-like fashion to meet the battery demand of a particular vehicle. This also means that car manufacturers don’t have to change the design of the cars they produce because our modular batteries are designed to fit in the same space as the original battery.
- Providing a full charge in under 10 minutes. That’s 3x faster and 10x cheaper than other charging solutions and it makes modular battery swapping as fast and convenient as filling up at the gas pump.
- Since we don’t have to move around massive batteries, our stations don’t require digging or construction to allow for a fast rollout. Ample stations occupy the space of just two parking spots and a single station can be deployed in a matter of days and an entire city can be equipped in weeks.
The battery is a major focus of innovation in electric cars, and while batteries have improved over the past decade, the challenge remains in making recharging cost-effective, convenient, and accessible. Today, EVs are great for drivers with private garages for overnight charging and people who don’t drive too far, but for those who drive long distances or rely on street parking, other charging methods take too long, cost too much, or are simply not available within their neighborhood.
That’s why we see modular battery swapping as an essential element in universal EV adoption as it solves many of the issues, gaps, and limitations of other EV charging methods.
What are the numbers? How much faster is the battery swap charging time relative to a standard method of charging a battery? And can you compare costs?
Today’s EV chargers take roughly 30-40 minutes to replenish an EV’s battery to 80% — and much longer to reach 100%. Ample’s modular battery swap delivers a 100% charged battery in less than 10 minutes and at an installation cost that is roughly 10X lower than fast chargers.
Our modular method also means that owners are able to “right size” the amount of battery in the vehicle every time they swap which decreases the total amount of battery needed by the car, thus reducing the cost and increasing the efficiency of the vehicle.
Which driver profiles will Ample best serve?
Modular battery swapping opens up the electric vehicle market to tens of millions of commuters, delivery vehicles, rideshare drivers, and more. Our first customers have been high-utilization fleets like ridesharing, car sharing, last-mile delivery, government/municipal fleets, and corporate fleets.
For example, we’ve partnered with Uber on its global electrification strategy and are actively working with other ride-sharing companies, last-mile delivery services, and municipal fleets to help them electrify without losing the economic benefits or convenience of gasoline or diesel refueling. With Ample, these fleets also no longer have to change the way they operate to accommodate long charging times. They now know, like in a gas station, they have flexibility so that even if they just have a few miles to go, they can pull up and swap their empty batteries for fully charged ones in a matter of minutes.
Eventually, Ample will be for anyone who wants to drive an electric car, but who doesn’t have access to overnight charging. Research shows 39 million people in the U.S. — almost 1 in 8 Americans — call apartments home. For those who own a car, it’s likely that only a fraction of those individuals has a dedicated or reserved parking spot. We’ve designed our system to get charging methods out of garages and into the neighborhoods that will benefit from it most.
Would you outline the history of Ample the company?
My co-founder, John De Souza, and I founded Ample in 2014 following the successful exit of MedHelp, another startup we co-founded seven years prior to our journey with Ample. John and I make a great team – he is a serial entrepreneur and a strategic investor with 20 years of experience founding and investing in technology-enabled companies in the communications, healthcare, finance, and energy industries, while I am a strategic thinker and agile leader, having created companies across multiple industries as well as built and managed highly effective teams across the US, India, China, the Middle East, and Africa. John and I share a passion for solving challenging problems that matter. We started Ample because we believe that accelerating the transition to electric mobility is among the most critical challenges of our time.
To bring this vision to life, we built a team of former Microsoft, Tesla, Google, Mayfield Robotics, and Qualcomm executives, engineers, and roboticists with decades of experience in clean energy, technology, and automotive industries. These leaders come from top academic institutions including MIT, Stanford, University of California-Berkeley, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale.
After years of developing this technology, we launched our first swapping stations in early 2021. We’re proud to have raised over $270M in total funding from investors including Blackstone Group, ENEOS, Moore Strategic Ventures, and Shell Ventures, among others.
Does your slow-charging method preserve battery health better than rapid plug-in methods? And how significant is this?
Yes, one of the most significant benefits of battery swapping is that we’re able to slow-charge batteries, in our small modular charging stations, when the batteries are not in use. This protects the health of the battery in comparison to fast-charging methods that many EV drivers rely on to get a full charge.
Due to our modular batteries, we are able to charge slowly and swap fast. All batteries are the same density therefore the full charge of batteries doesn’t fluctuate.
Ample’s energy transfer from the grid to the vehicle is about 95% efficient. In contrast, high-power fast-chargers easily lose 30% of their energy to waste heat when they transfer it to a vehicle. This efficiency factor is one of the major benefits of swapping compared with fast charging.
Slow charging also means that we are able to charge the batteries when clean energy sources like solar and wind are available, making this a truly green solution.
Ample has how many stations in San Francisco? What are your expansion plans for the US and overseas?
We currently have 10 charging stations deployed in the Bay Area. We’ve also expanded our initial global electrification partnership with Uber to electrify 100% of its rides across the US, Europe, and Canada by 2030 and partnered with ENEOS, Japan’s largest oil company, to bring battery swapping to the region.
Together, we are conducting an initial trial with several passenger and last-mile delivery companies. By 2030, we are targeting to have billions of miles driven annually using the Ample solution and playing a significant impact in decreasing vehicle emissions.
Who owns these exchangeable batteries, and how does the customer purchase price compare with the standard method of charging batteries? How does the profit-making side of Ample compare?
Drivers will have access to batteries at a price 20% lower than the price of gas for swapping services. The swapping price includes electricity but also varies with car model and battery size. The price of electricity varies too but our goal is to have it be 10-20% cheaper than gas. This model allows us to ensure that the customer always gets a high-quality battery and they benefit from the advancement in battery chemistry and greater range that comes with an improved battery over time that can be installed in our charging stations.
Also, Ample-compatible cars will be much cheaper since batteries constitute a large percentage of the cost of an electric vehicle. Owners of Ample-enabled cars will not have to spend money on a battery that quickly degrades and instead will also have the latest battery technology through Ample’s swapping stations.
How will the US Inflation Reduction Act create a need for additional charging stations and support Ample’s expansion goals?
Our take is that the Inflation Reduction Act of August 2022 makes significant strides toward addressing climate and energy security in the US. It will also assist the EV supply chain while addressing serious equity concerns in the current EV market. The key areas we view as most beneficial are:
- We like the fact that the bill has a bevy of manufacturing credits that will directly incentivize U.S.-based battery cell production and build better supply chains. These include grants for converting existing manufacturing facilities into factories that will produce the clean vehicle technologies of the future. Having more components made in the U.S. is good for energy security, jobs, and the environment.
- Previous EV subsidies failed to meet the needs of many low-income Americans, especially those who park on the street or in public garages and rural residents who need to drive long distances and refuel on the go. The Inflation Reduction Act provides new subsidies for those that really need the assistance.
The bill will undoubtedly help expand America’s capacity to build and buy EVs which further creates the need for next-generation refueling options like battery swapping.