MICROMOBILITY The important role of battery swapping in micromobility
With urbanization on the rise, Europeans are making shorter trips, which has given way to a boom in micromobility. The e-scooter market alone is expected to be worth $41.98 Billion by 2030. Despite increased demand, achieving profitability in the market has been a challenge, primarily due to the issue of recharging.
However, a number of micromobility companies, such as Raido, JUMP, Revel and Bolt Mobility are now developing battery swapping technology to make their e-scooters more convenient for users and more profitable for companies. Let’s take a closer look at the importance of this technology in the micromobility marketplace.
The challenge of battery recharging in micromobility
One of the biggest challenges facing micromobility companies is the issue of charging. Long charging periods means fewer vehicles on the road, which disrupts logistics and the potential to make money. As a result, many micromobility companies use a ‘crowdsourced’ model, paying independent contractors in combustion vehicles to collect e-scooters when their charge runs out. Not only does this add to congestion on our roads, but it increases carbon emissions.
For micromobility companies, charging is a significant expense. In 2018, it was reported that e-scooter company Bird, spent 47 % of their total costs on charging expenses as a result of having a crowdsourced model.
Typically, scooter companies charge their vehicles by either paying gig workers to take vehicles to their home to charge them, or by hiring companies to charge them in a warehouse facility. In both, cases, scooters are taken off the streets with up to 40 % of an entire fleet unavailable during charging periods.
Overcoming the challenges of recharging
With swappable batteries, scooter uptime is improved. Operations teams can replace batteries at the roadside, eliminating the need to transport scooters to charging points elsewhere in the city. Not only does this reduce logistics costs, but it reduces CO2 emissions. The traditional charging model of ‘remove, recharge, deploy’ will become obsolete and be replaced with a much simpler, more convenient method. For example, micromobility company Raido has designed a swappable battery that can be installed on any electric scooter in 10 minutes and reduce charging costs by 50% to 80%.
Essentially, swappable batteries enable micromobility companies to rebalance their fleet more effectively by ensuring that every scooter is positioned in the right place at the right time across a city.
Swappable batteries can also incentivize users with rewards to charge batteries on their own in shops, or at charging kiosks. For example, ride credits could be given if users charge batteries before returning scooters to their docks. In turn, this could further reduce operational costs for companies as there would be less need for operational teams to carry out swapping tasks.
The challenges of introducing swappable batteries
While the benefits of swappable batteries are well understood, there are challenges to introducing the technology. For example, developing a swappable battery infrastructure is expensive. Research and news website SmartCity reports that the cost could be up to three times more expensive than direct current fast charging.
From a manufacturing point of view, swappable batteries need to be smaller and require additional electronics, which means increased capital investment. Scooter companies will also need to have a large inventory of batteries to keep up with recharging demand.
There’s also the issue of battery range. Currently, Superpedestrian’s e-scooters can provide a range of up to 55 miles per charge, which is higher than the industry average. Even at this distance, services that use scooters with long ranges will be unlikely to use swappable batteries as the number of charging interventions would be too disruptive to journeys.
Swappable batteries offer a promising solution to the recharging issues facing micromobility companies. Essentially, they will move the industry closer to profitability. As well as improving the user experience, swappable batteries can reduce operational costs, increase fleet uptime and enable operators to rebalance fleets more effectively.
On the other hand, there are additional capital costs associated with setting up a battery swapping network. Manufacturing costs will likely be higher and limited battery range may mean that the solution may not be suitable for long distance providers.
To overcome these challenges, operators and startups need to work in collaboration, integrating manufacturing with infrastructure to create a more profitable marketplace.