India's Battery Swapping Strategy, Important and Necessary Step

In response to increasing energy needs, India has introduced a battery swapping strategy: a necessary but not enough step.

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In April 2022, the Policy Commission, In-House Think Tank, Government of India issued a Draft Policy for Battery Swapping (BS) for two-wheelers and three-wheelers. The policy approach, as outlined in the draft, is to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) by improving the efficient and effective use of scarce resources such as public funds, land and raw materials for advanced cell batteries for customer delivery. -Centric service. The objectives of the policy are (1) to promote the replacement of batteries with advanced chemistry cell (ACC) batteries so as to double the cost of batteries prior to the purchase of EVs, thereby adopting EVs. Establish principles behind swapping (3) technical standards as an alternative to charging facilities that enable the interoperability of components in the battery swapping ecosystem,

The draft assumes the success of BS, which is expected to address major issues at the other end of the value chain, such as the domestic production of ACC batteries and the production of EVs.

The provisions in the draft policy address some of the challenges related to the battery and EV industry. However, the draft assumes the success of BS, which is expected to address major issues at the other end of the value chain, such as the domestic production of ACC batteries and the production of EVs. BS is expected to facilitate the decarbonization of mobility in India which is only a small part of the EV ecosystem.

Battery swapping

The value of BS lies in the fact that if the price of an electric car is separated from its most expensive part, the battery will make it attractive to consumers. The BS range can reduce anxiety and uncertainty as batteries can be flexibly selected based on their size and can be purchased or rented either on a monthly basis. Also, the services can be based on monthly subscriptions according to the energy required by providing flexibility to the customers.

The batteries in all EVs have to be charged with electricity from time to time. In addition to static charging with cable (normal or fast), which is the most effective model globally, static and dynamic conductive and inductive technologies are also available for charging. Under the BS model, the battery discharged inside the EV is replaced in the BS station (BSS) for the battery charged outside the EV. Ideally, BSS will store thousands of standard certified batteries (or robots) to complete the swapping in minutes.

BS is not new. The German company Mercedes-Benz tried this in the 1970s but was unsuccessful. It was reintroduced in 2007 by the Israeli company Better Place but went bankrupt. The American company Tesla tried in 2013 with a modular design for your car. Tesla then opted for its own cable-based charging system and a business model that integrates car and charging.

In addition to static charging with cable (normal or fast), which is the most effective model globally, static and dynamic conductive and inductive technologies are also available for charging.

The Indian BS initiative seems to be following in the footsteps of China which is currently witnessing a revival in the sector. Chinese EV manufacturers tried BS in early 2010, but it did not stop. Early Chinese experiment with BS. In 2020, China’s central government included BS technology in its ‘National New Energy Vehicle Development Strategy 2021 to 2035’ and included battery-swapping in its list of ‘New Infrastructure Construction Campaigns’. At the beginning of 2021, there were 562 BSS operating in China, which included taxis, online car-hauling vehicles, Private passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles were serviced. More than 100,000 cars with battery-swapping systems have been sold in China.

Problems in battery swapping in India

The draft strategy provides three arguments for focusing on battery swapping in the two- and three-wheeler segments. First, two-wheelers and three-wheelers account for 70-80 per cent of the country's vehicles; Second, two- and three-wheeled electric vehicles are cost-competitive with internal combustion engine (ICE) based vehicles, and third, light batteries used in electric two-wheeled and three-wheeled vehicles are easy to replace. This assumption must be valid. Two-wheelers and three-wheelers make up the bulk of India's fleet of vehicles, accounting for only 18 per cent of total vehicle emissions. This is much lower than in many other countries; In the United States, for example, passenger cars account for 57 percent of total traffic emissions. The stock of two-wheelers and three-wheelers can be up to 80 per cent, But their share is only 20 per cent transport energy consumption and about 18 per cent transport emissions. Even if all two-wheelers and three-wheelers are electrified, emissions are unlikely to decrease.

The competitiveness of the price of two-wheelers and three-wheelers in the measurement of total ownership value (TCO) depends on the fact that higher taxes on liquid petroleum fuels make them non-competitive against any fuel, including fuel gas. These taxes are a major source of revenue for the government. Today more than 90 per cent of Indian roads have EV low-speed electric scooters (less than 25 kilometers per hour [km / h]) that do not require registration and license. Almost all electric scooters run on lead batteries to keep prices low. The absence of government control is the primary driver of the industry and these users are unlikely to be willing to use swapable lithium-ion batteries that would keep them under government regulation.

Two-wheelers and three-wheelers account for the largest share of India's vehicle fleet, with individual vehicles accounting for only 18 per cent of total transport emissions.

The BS policy expects large car companies to share technology around batteries (or any technology) that goes against standard business rules. In the traditional car industry, some compatibility exists in retail appliances such as cigarette lighter power supplies and valve stems for tires. Consistent battery design and technology implemented by strict government orders are likely to restrict rather than facilitate battery production. Interchangeable batteries mean that a large number of rare and expensive resources such as lithium and cobalt are stationary in BS centers.

In 2020, the Ministry of Road Transport allowed the sale of two- and three-wheeler EVs in India without paving the way for battery swapping. Since then, a handful of BS providers have started operating in Delhi, which has the largest private vehicle population in India. Sun Mobility operates in more than 10 cities. But BS has not taken off as much as it does in China. Some of the issues are large investment required for construction of BS station, high economic cost of batteries in swapping stations, depreciation of batteries, difficulty in achieving uniform standards, division of responsibilities, limited space for station construction and security issues. 

Growth of BS in India, EV sales volume, EV charging facility and BS service are lower quantity orders than China. India lags far behind China in the production of EVs and batteries. Most importantly, the Chinese government's ability to bring together various stakeholders to meet the strategic objectives of leadership in EV and battery production is difficult to replicate in India. The policy on BS is a small step to facilitate the adoption of EV. This is a necessary but not enough condition to take a big leap towards decarbonizing mobility in India.

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