One battery to rule them all
There are good intentions between every new electric motorcycle and scooter to roll out of well-established manufacturers and newborn startups’ creative minds. The issue they all face, however, is the same that’s been plaguing the EV industry for almost a decade: range anxiety and not-so-short charging times. People don’t like to wait around for their ride to charge—even 30 minutes can sometimes feel like a stretch. This is where swappable batteries could save the day, provided standardization becomes a thing.
WAKE ME UP BEFORE YOU GO GO
Some manufacturers have already announced that they are working on the development of swappable batteries technologies and docking stations to accommodate them. Provided a large-enough network of docking stations was established, this swap-and-go system could help solve the age-old issues companies have been facing when trying to market electric vehicles. No more need to go for lunch or wait around while your motorcycle is charging—all you would have to do is unplug the battery, plug it at the charging station, and swap for a fully charged battery.
With enough of these stations spread out, charging an e-bike would become as simple and as quick as filling up a gas tank. So it’s good news that certain manufacturers, including Yamaha and Honda, are looking into developing and mainstreaming the technology.
There is a downside, however: just like Apple and Android phones are not compatible, each company is working on its own protocol. This means there could be as many different models of swappable batteries as there are models of bikes that use them. This also means that unless the charging ports are standardized (like c-chargers or lightening chargers for smartphones), there would have to be enough battery-specific charging stations to support every brands’ products. If that doesn’t give you a headache, I don’t know what will.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m surprised it’s taken this long for someone to step up to the plate. The answer to this conundrum is a standard battery. That is what Taiwan e-scooter maker Kymco is suggesting. The company would like to develop a swappable-battery electric scooter platform that other manufacturers could use to build their own models that would ultimately use the same type of battery across the board. This means that technical support for the batteries would be centralized and only one type of docking station would be required for a wide variety of vehicles.
At the moment, Kymco and its partner Ionex’ are targeting fleet owners and ride-sharing programs by offering a turn-key service that provides customers with the swappable batteries technology, the charging stations, the software and app to manage the fleet, and the electric scooters. Though there is more of a commercial focus on this plan, a public application isn’t too far behind. Owners of future electric scooters, and eventually, electric motorcycles, would be able to either travel without worrying about range and charging time, but this could also open the door to keeping multiple batteries at home, which would simplify electric vehicle ownership for the entire family. What a time to be alive!