Battery swapping is common in electric forklifts and power tools. Why not in electric vehicles and e-bikes, too? It turns out in places like China, India, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore and Taiwan, battery swapping is starting to gain traction.
Among EV users, battery swapping (instead of re-charging) is just another way of going from A to B purely on electrons. It’s currently a niche market. Both Renault and Tesla tried it, then dropped it. Others, however, think it makes good economic sense. One industry study shows revenues will be over $15 billion per year for battery swapping by 2032.
The "swap-and-go" option is practical too. Electric motorcycle riders can swiftly exchange near-empty batteries in just six seconds, allowing them to promptly resume their journey. Likewise, electric car owners experience a 3-minute swap for a fully charged battery without stepping out of their vehicles.
Each swap, aided by software and battery management system, includes a comprehensive health check on the battery and electric drive system, ensuring both components are in optimal condition for continued use.
Batteries are the holy grail of electric transport. And such services are simply not there with current modes of charging at home or at a public station.
For swap-and-go, it means never really owning a battery for your vehicle. In business-speak, it’s also known as battery as a service (BaaS), a potentially multi-billion-dollar industry.
Case in point: During the recent Chinese New Year, Shanghai-based NIO achieved a record by swapping 900,000 batteries in just 17 days – which shows demand for its battery swap service.
It makes energy portable. And in some of the world’s key cities, it’s starting to change the urban transport landscape.
What is battery swapping?
Battery swapping is a service that allows EV owners to exchange their depleted batteries for fully-charged ones at designated stations at a relatively faster time than it takes to fuel up.
So instead of waiting for a vehicle's battery to recharge, which can take a significant amount of time, swap-and-go provides a quicker alternative. The process typically involves driving into a designated battery swapping station. In certain places, it’s done manually. In others, high-tech swap stations use automated systems to facilitate the swap.
For end-users, there are some good reasons to embrace battery swapping.
A faster time to top-up the battery than conventional charging, for one. Also, there’s less headache related to battery degradation. Battery health checks can be done with every swap. Competition and standardisation will allow for quicker adoption of a new battery technology.
This is true whether your vehicle is a two or three-wheeler, a sedan or SUV.
Drivers can continue their journey without the need for an extended charging stop.
The smart “Swap and Go” platform is certainly gaining momentum in India, Singapore, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and beyond. The numbers show its potential, as per the following:
Last year, in China, 20 million battery swaps – a milestone – was achieved by one EV maker – NIO.
The company has signed strategic battery swap agreements with other leading EV makers, including Changan, Geely, JAC and Chery – known as the Battery Swapping Partner Network, announced on January 22, 2024.
Combined, these companies sold about 7 million EVs in 2023, or about 40 per cent more than BYD and Tesla combined.
NIO has already built around 2,250 battery swap stations around China and Europe. The process takes three minutes from start to finish.
Battery swapping is already operational in India. In October, Indian oil refining giant Reliance Industries showcased its swappable and multipurpose battery storage technology for electric vehicles (EVs), as it makes a big push on clean energy. Honda Motors is also building an extensive network of battery swapping stations for electric rickshaws in India.
Moreover, India’s first Made-in-India Smartscooter was launched with an expanded battery-swapping network in 2023.
The solution is seen transforming urban mobility in the world's most densely populated cities by changing how people use and share portable energy.
One study shows the average set-up cost for a swapping station is in the range of Rs3 to Rs5 lakh (about $6,016), excluding the cost of batteries, fixed costs and running costs.
Commercially launched in Manila with the opening of the first Gogoro Experience Centre. In 2023, Gogoro initiated its entry into the Philippines through a collaborative effort with Ayala Corp and Globe's 917Ventures. This partnership marked the commencement of a groundbreaking era in the realm of sustainable transportation, specifically in the two-wheel electric vehicles sector.
For battery swapping service, the Gogoro “Energy Plan”, accessible via the Gogoro app, comes with two monthly subscription options:
Plan 799: 300Ah (Ampere hour) or up to 420 kilometers of travel distance
Plan 999: 500Ah or up to 700 kilometers of travel distance.
Gogoro bikes are also available in three models: Supersport, currently priced at 5,000 (Php285,000); the Delight, at $4,785 (Php270,000) and the S2 Premium at $4,519 (Php255,000). Prices for VIVA MIX, VIVA, and S1 models have not yet been announced.
The battery-swapping network expanded in 2023, with 180+ stations deployed across 18 cities in South Korea, including Seoul, Daegu, Sejong, Changwon, Incheon, Gyeongsan, Gyeonggi and Ulsan.
In addiiton, Bikebank has also opened two Dotstation retail stores for consumers and last-mile delivery riders to purchase Gogoro’s Smartscooters. Food delivery companies, Logiall and Manna Plus are already making use of these vehicles and the battery-swapping network to make their operations more sustainable and efficient.
The island-nation adopted swap-and-go in 2022, when the Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA) approved Gogoro’s application to operate a sandbox to validate Gogoro battery swapping as a smart mobility refueling solution for the future. Singapore’s Green Plan 2030 seeks to push sustainable energy and transportation..
Gogoro partnered with market leader, Jardine Cycle & Carriage, and Foodpanda to electrify last-mile deliveries, saving more than 22,600 kg of CO2.
In Taiwan, the Gogoro Network supports nearly 600,000 riders and has more than 1.3 million smart batteries in circulation through its network of 12,000 battery swapping stations at over 2,500 locations.
With more than 400,000 daily battery swaps and more than 500 million total battery swaps to date, Gogoro battery swapping has saved more than 770,000 tons of CO2 since it launched. For 85 per cent of all users in Taiwan, the nearest swapping station is at most a five-minute ride away.
After that there's a fee of $11 (€10) per swap and $0.22 (€0.20) per kWh, so a 100-kWh battery would cost about €30.
Despite its promise, battery swapping technology faces challenges hindering widespread adoption. Issues include the lack of standardised battery designs, high initial setup costs, and the necessity for extensive infrastructure deployment, making it less prevalent than traditional charging stations.
However, recent developments suggest a paradigm shift. In January, over a dozen electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers, with a combined production capacity of 6 million EVs, joined forces to establish a unified battery swapping network.
One major hurdle is the absence of a consensus among automakers to produce vehicles tailored for standardised swappable battery packs. Achieving this requires substantial collaboration during the setup and launch phases, with automakers defining technical specifications and establishing standardised parameters.
Such collaboration proves challenging, especially given past experiences in various industrial sectors.
While standardising batteries presents its own set of problems, ethical and technical difficulties persist in the market. Most original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) currently resist standardisation, believing it hampers innovation. Howeverr, some argue that battery standardisation is essential for effective implementation of the battery-as-a-service model, catering to a diverse range of vehicles.
$ 15 bEstimated size of global battery swapping market, 2032
How big is the swap-and-go market?
The global battery swapping market, valued at $1.7 billion in 2022, is projected to reach $11.8 billion by 2027, with a 25 per cent CAGR.
Growing demand for efficient, long-range, and low-emission vehicles, particularly in micro-mobility solutions like e-bikes and scooters, is a key driver.
Anticipated growth factors include increased investment in battery swapping infrastructure, rising adoption of EVs, government initiatives promoting sustainable transport, and higher investments in renewable energy sources, suggesting potential growth to $15 billion by 2032.
Who are the leading industry players?
The battery swapping market is dominated by players such as:
- NIO Power (China)
- Gogoro (Taiwan)
- Immotor (China)
- Aulton (China)
- Sun Mobility (India)
- Reliance (India)
- Honda (India)
Since 2015, Taiwanese battery swapping company Gogoro claims that its battery swapping network has curbed over 812 million kg of CO2, the equivalent to what 81.2 million trees absorb every year.
Outlook for swap-and-go
Battery swapping has gained attention as a potential solution to address concerns related to EV charging times, particularly for long-distance travel.
Standardisation remains a challenge.
But greater industry collaboration and standardisation – similar to the adoption of NACS (North American Charging System, popularised by Tesla) charging standard by an increasing number of EV makers (including Ford, GM, Rivian, Honda, Polestar, Volvo, Hyundai, Ford, among others) – could change the game.
For end-uses, this could enable electric vehicles to become more convenient and comparable to traditional internal combustion engine vehicles not just in terms of refueling time, but also in real-life, everyday use.