Electric Car Battery Swapping - Chinese Style - Screengrab from WallStreetDaily video on electric cars in China.Enlarge Photo
Last month, we brought you the story of the electric taxis that carry passengers through the busy City of Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China, based on a low-tech way of quickly swapping out empty battery packs for fully charged ones.
At the time, we chose to focus on the process of battery swapping, covered at length in the original Wall Street Daily article we cited.
Since then, we’ve seen reports saying that each of the 29 electric taxis in Hangzhou takes around two hours to recharge its battery pack from empty--and that the eTaxi drivers do this up to five times a shift.
That's not the 10 minutes the battery swap is reputed to take. And it left us confused.
You see, we were pretty sure the whole point of a fast battery-swap station was that it was quick.
After all, a taxi that can only drive 40 miles between battery swaps isn’t going to be much use if it has to wait another two hours to collect its next fare.
Electric Car Battery Swapping- Chinese StyleEnlarge Photo
If that were true, then drivers would spend more time waiting for their taxis to charge than they would actually driving them.
So we re-read the original, and re-watched the Wall Street Daily video report that accompanied it. Sure enough, there’s the quote, detailing a two-hour recharge.
“The driver says it takes a couple of hours to charge the battery, and if [it] isn’t charged in time or the car gets stuck in traffic, it can be a problem.”
But the quote is from a passenger, not the driver. In other words, it’s second-hand information. A classic example of the thing we’d ironically call a Chinese Whisper: “He said that she said that he said...”
In the original, the term charge is used for the two-hour event. Later on, it refers to battery swapping as battery changing. That’s where we think the confusion has set in.
We thought we should set the record straight, since if you read the words battery changing quickly, they're easily misread as battery charging.
While it’s highly likely that the charging stations used by the prototype electric taxis fully recharges an empty battery pack in two hours, we think recharging is probably meant to be used only when the driver isn’t actually working.
The 10-minute battery swapping that's termed battery changing? That’s the thing that happens five times a day. Not two-hour charges, five times a day.
There, now you have it.