Electric-Car Battery Swapping, Slovakian Style (Well, Vans, Anyway)

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Battery swapping was once hailed as the miracle cure for short-range electric cars, but the trials and tribulations of Better Place have shown that isn't necessarily the case.

It's not a bad idea though--it just needs the correct application.

That could be in the commercial vehicle world, as demonstrated by the GreenWay Project in Slovakia.

As you'll immediately gather by watching the video above, the GreenWay Project's setup isn't nearly as grand or as slick as Better Place, but that could also be its advantage.

A small fleet of Citroen vans has been converted to electric power, their batteries taking the shape of a conspicuously large black box taking up some of the load bay.

Cleverly, this large pack sits on a rail system. When stopping at one of the Project's swap stations, the old battery can be disconnected (via a simple lever), slid onto a forklift, and another battery slid into place.

It does render the side door rather useless for any other purpose than battery swapping, but the whole process takes only seven minutes (once you've got the technique down, naturally), far shorter than stopping to recharge. It's around the same amount of time a driver might stop to fill up a regular van with diesel or gasoline. A realistic daily distance of over 155 miles is said to be achievable with the system.

The company intents to build up its own network of these swapping stations, integrating a network of electric vans, charging and swapping stations, information, servicing and backup and the electricity itself--everything a company might need to run a fleet of vehicles.

GreenWay is heavily pushing the environmental aspect, but the ease of use and cost benefits too.

It's too early to tell whether it'll take off, but commercial markets are quite different from that of private individuals. Is this where battery swapping will find its niche?

[Hat tip: Gavin Shoebridge]


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Comments (4)
  1. This makes sense... question is how many miles does a typical transport van do in a day? (city transport mind you). I can imagine this with UPS and or FedEx if they need it... I really don't see these trucks doing more than 60 miles a day... anyone have these numbers?

  2. Robert, from what I've gathered GreenWay is looking for customers who need to drive about 300 miles per day on average. This is presumably necessary to help offset the fairly high fixed cost of the service, and realize a financial benefit for clients. Because of this, each van will need to perform one battery swap per day on average.

    Antony, interesting project and a great article. I believe that a more common form of the adjective you used in the headline is "Slovak" and not "Slovakian". Just saying :-)

  3. actually, all you really need is customers who on average do 160-200 Miles per day.

    if the Battery is good for 150 miles, if you do less then that in a day, then, you can work from a home charger and do a days work every day, but the moment you start to get north of 150, well, now you start losing productivity. If you even do 160 miles, well a quick swap means you get to finish the days work. I'd say there is a decent market in people who do 150-200 miles/day. See at 300 miles, and 50 MPH, you are really driving most of the day, so that's drive 3 hours out, drop a cargo, drive back to base. But at 200 miles, that's drive an hour, pickup, drive an hour, drop, drive an hour pickup, drive an hour drop, Lot more customers there.

  4. but it means you need more swap stations, you need stations on the other side of town, not, on the motorway.

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