Ever since batteries were first developed for home appliances and toys we have been able to take them out and put fresh ones in.
Why not on electric bikes?
In this article we will look at a few swappable eBike battery systems and the reasons why most eBikes won’t have standardized batteries.
3 Companies With Swappable Batteries
A number of e-bike manufacturers around the world have swappable battery systems for their machines.
The battery systems are largely aimed at cycle couriers who do large mileages every day and benefit from that extra push from an electric motor on their bikes.
The rider will pay for either the conversion kit (in the case of Pushme) or a bike. They will then pay a subscription.
Ed Benjamin, Chairman of the Light Electric Vehicle Association explained to the Electric Bike Report, “Gogoro has one of the most nicely executed plans, and while I don’t have the figures at hand, I do know that the cost of the battery lease is based on how often you swap them.”
Pushme cyclists tend to join their scheme wherever the company has charging outlets. You need the charging infrastructure to make this system work.
In this case the courier may do 3-5 hours work and then drop into a café for a new battery, putting the used one back on the dock as they take the new one.
E-bike manufacturer Matra developed the ‘Bat’lib’ battery swapping system in 2012.
The Green Car Congress reported, “The Bat’Lib swapping station features ten battery charging ports and its small footprint minimizes space requirements. One port is always kept open to accept a new empty battery while the remaining ports can simultaneously charge nine batteries. The system can be limited to registered users through an RFID system. Upon arrival, the driver removes the empty battery from the vehicle, swipes the RFID card, and inserts the empty battery into the open port. Upon receiving the empty battery, the Bat’Lib immediately opens the door for one of the fully-charged batteries which is ready for immediate use.”
Looking around the web, this scheme never seems to have got off the ground.
A Push For Standardization
There are some interests outside of the e-bike industry who seem to want all bike batteries to be standardized.
The German company EnergyTube have developed a swappable battery system for a range of applications including e-bikes.
Their website argues that it could be cheaper for e-bike manufacturers to standardize their battery systems:
“Because the battery module must not be developed new at every time an unprecedented level of depth of development can be achieved what makes the battery system: safe, robust, affordable, reliable, durable, beautiful, compact, intelligent, flexible and user friendly. It covers therefore a tremendous need for our increasingly mobile society.”
For businesses outside of the e-bike industry, who may be keen to break into the fast growing e-bike making industry, there is some interest in standardizing batteries.
Consumers may think the same – ultimately we don’t want e-bikes to be very expensive and batteries are a major component of the price.
It May Make Sense To You But Not The E-Bike Makers
While from the outside it makes a lot of sense to have an industry standard, swappable battery for all e-bike users to use, it doesn’t make sense for the manufacturers themselves.
Mr Benjamin explained from the industry’s perspective: “It’s a good idea for the industry as a whole, and I think it is a very reasonable idea but individual manufacturers will say it is not in their interests. It would mean that the battery will just be a commodity that will be sold at the lowest possible price and they don’t like that very much! It doesn’t have much traction in the industry as a whole.”
While as consumers we are naturally after a lower cost power system and drive train for our e-bikes, the manufacturers think of their own bottom line rather than how to make cost savings for the consumer.
That is how competition occurs – an ongoing battle between consumers seeking a lower price and the makers (of any product) trying to make a profit at a certain price point.
Benjamin continued, “There may come a day when consumer pressure becomes so great that this will change but for the moment it is the brand managers who don’t see an advantage in having a battery that will work on other people’s bikes or a bike that will work with other people’s batteries.”
Will it happen? Mr Benjamin seems certain that no e-bike manufacturer will lead the way into e-bikes having a standardized swappable battery system – it will affect their bottom line and they would stop innovating in battery technology.
Though it makes sense from the overall perspective to have a standardized, swappable battery system, it could lead to a stagnation in innovation of battery technology.
– By Richard Schrubb
P.S. Don’t forget to join the Electric Bike Report community for updates from the electric bike world, plus ebike riding and maintenance tips.