Ample claims to be able to swap an EV battery in 5 minutes

Can real-time charging be defeated by battery switching for electric vehicles? One high-profile failure of this company idea has already occurred, but Ample is working to turn it around.

Ample, a well-funded startup creating infrastructure for electric vehicle battery swapping, gave a limited group of investors, business partners, and media last week a tour of a fully operational prototype swap station. The demonstration has been planned for eight years.

The CEO and co-founder of Ample, Khaled Hassounah, told the gathered audience that the business wants the battery-swap experience to be similar to filling up a gas-powered car, but without the fumes. A driver may enter and exit Ample’s new swapping bay in five minutes with a fresh battery and a full charge as opposed to waiting around to charge an EV battery, which can take up to an hour even with a fast charger.

Ample swap EV battery in 5 minutes

The car is carefully steered into the bay and raised on a platform during those five minutes. A battery module is taken out of the car and transported to a charging station by a robot underneath the car. A charged module is then chosen, moved, and installed in its location by the robot.
As the EV revolution advances, a significant difficulty that faces the United States and the rest of the world is how to charge all those EVs’ batteries. Swap instead of performing real-time charging, is Ample’s response.

Does anything here seem familiar? After obtaining $850 million from investors for EV battery swapping, Shai Agassi’s highly publicized business Better Place filed for bankruptcy in 2013. This infamous failure helped to deflate the Cleantech 1.0 bubble a decade earlier.

Battery swapping was briefly promoted by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2014, but he quickly abandoned the notion and shifted his attention to expanding the business’s network of EV chargers.

Despite these warning indications, John de Souza and Hassounah co-founded Ample in 2014 with the goal of perfecting modular EV battery switching.

After starting their business, they frequently heard the phrase “You guys are crazy.” DeSouza stated, “When people tell you you’re crazy, it’s one of two things: We could be doing something very ambitious—or we could actually be crazy.”

Although the creators of Ample’s sanity may still be in question, they are not alone in their madness.

Blackstone, Eneos, Momentum Venture Capital (the corporate venture arm of Singapore’s public transportation operator), Moore Strategic Ventures, PTT (Thailand’s state-owned gas and oil company), Spanish energy giant Repsol, Clayton Christensen’s Rose Park Advisors, Santander, and Shell Ventures are among the investors who contributed to Ample’s $290 million funding total over five rounds.

Expect to wait a while before you can pull your Chevy Bolt or Tesla into an Ample switching station. For the time being, the business is concentrated on a smaller market in an effort to steer clear of the errors that destroyed Better Place.

Ample’s solution is made to only function with select models whose manufacturers have cooperated with the business. It will initially target vehicle-fleet owners and commercial operators like Uber drivers.

Ample is not completely removing the vehicle’s battery pack, which weighs up to 1,000 pounds and contains structural and safety components, as it did in past attempts. As opposed to doing the entire job using heavy robots, Ample is only removing the active battery components.

The full exchange station is intended to be produced at Ample’s plant and then shipped to the location in a container. In contrast to the months it could take to install a fast charger, the company asserts that it can deploy a station in three days.

If Ample’s system performs as intended, it would not just benefit fleet owners and drivers. Additionally, it might speed up the installation of battery-charging infrastructure, reduce associated carbon emissions, and lower public costs for infrastructure development for EVs.

Ample believed that widely dispersed battery-swapping facilities could lessen the discomfort of charger scarcity and reduce these exaggerated cost projections.

Ample won’t strain the grid as much as rapid chargers would because it carefully schedules the charging of batteries. As a result, it may be possible to deploy switching stations in urban areas where the electrical infrastructure isn’t equipped to handle the significant and urgent power demands that come with normal EV charging.

Ample may potentially time the charging of its batteries to coincide with periods of high solar and wind output.

Despite the failure of earlier attempts, battery-swapping stations still have the potential to make EV ownership and charging accessible to a much greater population without incurring the high expense of completely reimagining the electrical grid. Will Ample be successful in forming alliances with like-minded manufacturers and local governments and perfecting a charging-as-a-service business model to realize this vision? The startup is betting that the past won’t predict the future.

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