Stellantis Corporation, together with the American company Ample, will next year launch a pilot project in Europe to quickly replace electric vehicle batteries at special terminals, technology will be tested on Fiat 500e hatchbacks, in the future it may extend to other Stellantis brands and models.
In Europe, the technology of replaceable batteries for electric vehicles has not yet taken root; Renault was a pioneer in this area: back in the decade before last, together with the American-Israeli company Better Place, it launched a network of terminals in Israel and Denmark for quickly replacing electric vehicle batteries, but the commercial effectiveness of this enterprise and its attractiveness to consumers turned out to be insignificant, the project failed, and the Better Place company went bankrupt in 2013. Later, Renault thought about returning to the idea of replaceable batteries for electric vehicles, but has not yet taken any concrete steps in this direction, but the Stellantis corporation, which had not previously dealt with replaceable batteries, decided to test this technology with minimal financial and reputational risks for itself.
As part of the pilot project, Stellantis will use terminals to replace batteries from the American company Ample, which already has several such terminals in Europe, and new ones, if needed, can be installed in just three days. The launch will take place next summer in Madrid (the capital of Spain), and hundreds of Fiat 500e hatchbacks from the Free2Move car sharing service (a subsidiary of Stellantis Corporation) will be equipped with replaceable batteries. The process of replacing the battery on one electric vehicle will take five minutes.
The financial parameters of the partnership between Stellantis and Ample are not disclosed, but it is clear that the costs on Stellantis’s part are small, since this is someone else’s and already working technology, Stellantis just wants to test it on its models, see how it goes, evaluate the results and make or not make a decision to expand the partnership.
Western automakers are now watching with excitement as Chinese companies are rapidly developing replacement battery technology for electric vehicles, but so far they do not see any obvious commercial prospects for themselves in it, and therefore are not getting involved in the race. In China, Nio is considered a pioneer in this direction, which already has thousands of battery replacement terminals in China and dozens in Europe. Nio recently partnered with Geely and Changan to further develop replaceable battery technology, and other Chinese companies are also actively working in this direction, such as battery manufacturer CATL.
Replaceable batteries have allowed Nio to lower the starting prices of its electric vehicles: you can buy them without a battery, and buy the battery through a subscription, changing it when needed at the terminals, and without standing for hours at a power outlet. Quick replacement is one of the main advantages of replaceable batteries; the consumer spends about the same time to get a full charge as the owner of a “hydrocarbon” car does to fill the fuel tank, that is, about five minutes. In addition, the well-known fear of the electric vehicle owner about the decrease in battery capacity as it wears out disappears – when the battery does not belong to you, it is not so important what its remaining capacity is.
The main disadvantage of replaceable battery technology is its binding to a specific manufacturer , and sometimes even a specific model of electric vehicle. Without intra-industry unification, this technology will not receive mass distribution – in fact, this is exactly the kind of unification that Chinese companies are now engaged in, they quickly agree and work quickly, while Western companies are still only watching this in amazement and trying to understand what all this can lead to.