When electric vehicle (EV) start-up Fisker introduces its “Ocean” SUV in the U.S. next year, it also will unveil its new battery-swapping station that can “refuel” its cars in the time it takes to fill a tank with gas, the company says.
A driver will pull into a swapping station where the car is lifted, its battery pack is extracted, and a new, fully charged one slotted in. The used battery pack is then plugged into a charger to be made ready for a new swap.
The process was developed in partnership with Ample, a battery-swapping venture. The station is fully automated and will change out a car’s battery pack in no more than a few minutes, according to Fisker, not the half-hour or more it can take to fully charge an EV now.
Also, the swapping service allows Fisker to upgrade EV owners to the newest battery chemistries any time they trade battery packs.
Fisker is planning to sell its cars without batteries, dramatically lowering the cost, and drivers will subscribe to the battery-swapping service: Fisker will own the battery packs and car owners will rent them as needed.
Fisker can set up a swap station in a few days, it says. The reason: it recharges its battery packs slowly. As a result, it doesn’t need high-voltage wiring, which extends construction time and raises costs.
Charging EV batteries slowly also extends their useful lives.
Initially, Fisker will target its EV sales to large fleet operators, such as taxi companies, that are looking to lower their costs and would justify Fisker’s investment in building a swapping station.
Ample already has opened swap stations in California, where some Uber drivers are using them. Ample also is ramping up its plan to expand in Europe, where it expects to accommodate a range of car makes and models.
TRENDPOST: Battery swapping would eliminate a key objection to EV ownership: sitting around for a long time while your batteries charge if you need to “fill your tank” while you’re en route.
However, building a national swapping infrastructure will take decades. Fisker is likely to remain a niche supplier for the foreseeable future but could build a successful business in that niche.
Perhaps the more important outcome of Fisker’s innovation is that it will give Ample capital to continue to develop its own swapping technologies and, over time, gradually build out its services to serve more brands of EVs in wider geographic areas.