As more electric and connected vehicles are being adopted, infrastructure expansion to support these vehicles is a substantial challenge to both automakers and the driving public. The wider adoption of these vehicles can be hindered without more prevalent infrastructure in place.
In two of the largest EV markets, China and Europe, charging stations are fairly common. However, North America is behind. There are an estimated 43,000 public charging stations in the U.S., according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, and only 5,200 of these have fast chargers. With industry estimates stating that EV charging demands could grow 30 times by 2030, there is a lot of room for growth.
In the U.S., the new infrastructure bill earmarks $7.5 billion to assist in building out a national network of at least 500,000 charging stations/chargers. Though many current EV owners are utilizing home chargers, it’s an option that is usable but can be time-consuming. Rapid-charging stations are available, but finding one that is convenient to most drivers today isn’t as easy as finding a gas station around the corner.
EV manufacturers are working on solutions by partnering with charging providers, utility companies and even oil companies to advance the infrastructure for EVs and create more accessibility for drivers as demand grows. Ford Motor Co. and General Motors have announced partnerships with third-party charging providers to offer more charging options in the U.S. In 2021, Nio and Shell entered a cooperation agreement to jointly construct and operate battery charging and swapping facilities globally.
Aside from charging stations or at-home chargers, there is another alternative that manufacturers should look at, one that has been working well in countries such as China — battery swapping. While it takes more than an hour to fully charge common EVs, battery swapping takes less than five minutes.
Battery swapping has not been considered mainstream in the past but it has been experiencing a revival in China with the adoption by some major players.
In the ever-growing EV landscape, manufacturers are pushing for this method, giving them an advantage and competitive edge.
With the introduction of a battery as a service, or BaaS, solution, EV customers can lease their batteries as a separate component from the car, which then gives the customer the opportunity to save money upfront in the purchase price of an electric vehicle.
With BaaS, the customer can swap out or upgrade their vehicle’s battery when needed, as an alternative to trying to charge or finding a charging station.
Users can subscribe to battery packs of various capacities according to their driving needs. If there is a trip that will take more miles, the driver can have a long-distance battery installed. Once back, the driver can switch to a standard battery pack for their daily use.
The BaaS function can also help with EV penetration challenges, including battery degradation and upgradeability and potential lower vehicle resale value. It is also less time-consuming and requires minimum infrastructure compared with a charging station.
The 2021 J.D. Power Electric Vehicle Experience Ownership Study found that driving range and the lack of charging options are the main reasons consumers don’t consider EVs when buying a new car. But, as the number of charging stations in an area increases, the more consumers are willing to go electric.
The advances in battery technology, which can allow EVs to travel hundreds of miles between charges, doesn’t reduce range anxiety. However, consumers want their drives to be seamless and as predictable as possible, and knowing that a charging station is available can ease their anxiety.
According to the Deloitte 2022 Global Automotive Consumer Study, the number of miles to ease the average American buyers’ range anxiety is 518 miles between charges. German drivers gave an average answer of 383 miles. Drivers in China would buy in at just 258 miles.
Many potential customers, especially those who live in apartments or urban areas who cannot charge their batteries at home and have to rely on public charging stations have expressed a great interest in battery swapping service. Its convenience and simplicity can provide a powerful incentive for potential EV buyers.