Stellantis charges into battery swaps for EVs with Ample partnership
Multi-brand automaker Stellantis has partnered with San Francisco's Ample to bring battery-swapping to its electric vehicles, starting with a fleet of ride-sharing Fiat 500e cars in Spain.
Instead of pulling into a charging station, plugging in and then waiting a while for an electric car's battery pack to charge up before continuing a journey, electric vehicles rolling with a special battery pack can be driven into a service hub where an automated system removes the low-charge unit and replaces it with a fresh one.
It's by no means a new idea, with China's Nio launching its first station in 2018, quickly expanding to celebrate its 500,000th swap by 2020 and most recently constructing its 2,000th unit on its home turf ahead of inking a deal with Geely to ramp up to the next level.
Ample unveiled its first battery swap hub in 2021, promising the automated removal of an old pack and replacement with a fully-charged module in under 10 minutes. Removed packs are plugged into chargers within the hub and topped up ready for future customers.
The Lego-like modules are designed as a drop-in replacement for any EV's existing battery pack, which means that manufacturers shouldn't need to reconfigure vehicles to work with the technology. And Ample reckons that swapping stations can be installed in public areas and operational within three days.
By May of this year, the company had reduced the wait time to 5 minutes and revealed that its hubs were already being used by fleet partners such as Uber in the Bay Area. Such solutions are a good fit for fleet operators, who won't want vehicles out of action for any length of time, and the idea could extend beyond electric passenger cars.
In fact, Ample partnered with Mitsubishi Fuso in July to install the technology in eCanter trucks for deployment in Japan next year. Now Stellantis is joining the party, agreeing to work with Ample to integrate the modular battery swapping technology in future Stellantis EVs.
The first real-world application will start in Madrid, Spain, next year with a fleet of a hundred Fiat 500e city cars operating under the Stellantis Free2move car sharing service.
As for regular car buyers, Stellantis revealed that future EV drivers could be offered the battery swap tech as a subscription service, which "would reduce the upfront total cost of the vehicle, as well as allow the customer to benefit from always having the latest battery technology."
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