Ample launches automated battery swap station to help drive EV adoption
Though the vast majority of cars on the road today run on fossil fuels, that's likely to change in the coming years – as more and more vehicle manufacturers commit to going electric. Startup Ample has come out of R&D stealth mode to help move things along with the launch of an automated battery swap solution for electric vehicles, which makes use of modular battery packs that can be retrofitted to existing EVs.
This is not the first time we've seen a swappable battery solution floated for electric vehicles. Following a number of demo projects, Better Place launched commercially in 2012. But the firm couldn't make the idea pay, and went bust after a year in operation. China's Nio has had more success though, last year celebrating its 500,000th battery swap.
And now Ample is giving it a go, with a solution made up of two main parts. First there's a modular battery architecture that would enable existing vehicles to make use of the second part – the automated battery swap station.
Once a vehicle is fitted with "Lego-like modules," the driver can roll onto the station's platform and, instead of coming up with something useful to do while the EV is cabled to a charger, the automated process whips out the spent modules and replaces them with fully charged fresh ones in under 10 minutes. Removed modules are then recharged, ready for the next vehicle to roll in.
It's not yet clear exactly how much all of this will cost drivers, but another aim of the project is to get "refueling" costs down as low as with gasoline. The company has also designed its setup so that a swapping station can be assembled on site, will take up approximately two parking spaces at the grocery store lot, gas station, highway rest stop or fleet service area, and a network could be rolled out to "an entire metropolitan are" in a few weeks. And Ample says it has solar and wind resources at its disposal too, to ease the load on the grid.
To kick off its rollout, Ample is focusing on fleets in the Bay Area, with Uber among its first ride-sharing, last-mile delivery and municipal fleet clients. The company is now inviting other fleet operators and automakers to join the project and help the company get more EVs on the road – at least a billion according to the launch announcement. The video below has more.