E-scooter fires: Why companies think battery swapping could be the solution

Could battery swapping be a better solution for electric scooter in India? That’s the question after a series of reported fires in electric scooters of all brands. While the exact reason for the fires isn’t known, most companies blame it on poor consumer charging practices. And that is precisely why some EV manufacturers in India prefer battery swapping instead of home charging.

Simply put, electric vehicle charging works just like any other electronic device like a laptop or cell phone. This could also be done at an EV charging station. But in case of battery swapping, when the user’s vehicle battery is completely discharged or about to be discharged, the manufacturers or a third-party supplier simply swaps it with a fully charged battery at a charging station. battery exchange.

The companies say users would typically spend about the same amount of time waiting for their batteries to be replaced as refueling a vehicle. However, the challenge would be the limited number of locations where this facility would be available.

“With battery swapping, one of the key components of electric vehicles, charging is under the complete control of the swapping company. The customer never has to recharge the battery. services that charges batteries,” said Arun Sreyas, co-founder and CEO of RACEnergy, a battery swap company, via email.

RACEnergy is currently piloting its service in Hyderabad and Tirupati. According to Sreyas, the company also cools its batteries before and after charging.

A set of interchangeable batteries. (Image credit: RACEnergy)

“The second advantage of swapping is that there is always an extra pool of batteries that allows swapping. This extra pool of batteries gives us enough time to charge the batteries and therefore we are not in a hurry to quickly charge “In fact, with our proprietary variable charge rates, we can slow down the charge as much as possible. This ensures that we use every available minute to reduce the charge rate,” Sreyas added.

Bounce is another electric vehicle fleet player that relies on battery swapping. The company is also a battery-as-a-service (BaaS) provider. The company’s CEO, Vivekananda Hallekere, had tweeted in response to reports of electric vehicle fires that so far, Bounce is serving more than 3,000 exchanges per day, or about 180,000 km. The company claims to have completed over a million trades in the past two years for 20,000 customers.

A red-colored Bounce scooter and a battery swap station. A Bounce Infinity scooter at a battery swap station. (Image credit: Bounce)

Hallekere told indianexpress.com that there are several aspects that could impact the health of a scooter’s battery and cause a fire. “There are many things that could go wrong with electric scooters: cell quality, cell packaging, electrical wiring, battery management system and charging technology,” Hallekere said.

Battery maintenance can’t be the customer’s job, Hallekere said, adding that there are other reasons why battery swapping is good. “Fast charging causes the cells to heat up. The batteries are charged at 0.5C. The cells are not damaged. One of the biggest advantages is that there is no quick exchange,” he pointed out.

On what could cause fires in electric vehicles, Hallekere added that how a battery is packaged is also very important. “It has to be done very well with science and logic. If the space between the cells is not planned or they are not balanced, it can cause problems like fires,” he said.

There are also concerns that fast charging can be a problem for electric vehicles, as it can heat up the battery considerably. According to Bounce, this is where the role of smart chargers is important. These can increase, decrease or stop the charge rate based on the data and ensure the batteries do not overheat.

“Charging vehicles must be designed in such a way that the customer does not have to worry. For example, the Battery Management System (BMS) should be able to communicate with the smart chargers so that charging can be cut off if the battery temperature reaches dangerous levels or the health of the battery is affected,” explained Hallekere.

Bounce claims it doesn’t rely on any fast charging for this exact reason, as it can impact “battery health by causing the battery to behave erratically, which could impact negative on thermal management”.

There is no doubt that as electric vehicles gain popularity in India, questions about safety will remain. As for battery swapping, this could be a good solution to avoid EV fires, but it could also be inconvenient for regular consumers, especially those who bought an EV for personal use.

However, companies such as Bounce are confident that these solutions will be adopted by electric vehicle users. There is also no doubt that the fuel-like convenience of BaaS solutions makes them more suitable for other modes of public transport such as electric rickshaws in Delhi, many of which are already taking advantage of technology. battery exchange.

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