Green Technology

Battery Swapping For Large Trucks — Is This The Way To Go?


I was riding in someone’s car yesterday talking about electric cars, semi trucks increasingly using cameras instead of mirrors (in Europe), and other matters. He mentioned that he couldn’t see much sense in trying to electrify large trucks at this point, and I had to acknowledge the various challenges they face — limited battery supply, limited range due to the weight and poor aerodynamics of trucks, the need for truck drivers to drive long distances each day (and not spend too much time fueling/charging) combined with relatively long charging times (and low range). One solution to some of those problems might be battery swapping.

Mitsubishi Fuso (part of Daimler Truck) seems to agree. Mitsubishi Fuso has worked with Ample to collaborate on its battery swapping technology for large electric trucks. That said, the focus has been on smaller “last-mile” electric delivery trucks rather than the larger, long-distance semi trucks you often see on the highway. Whether with battery swapping or charging, this is an easier class of trucks to electrify.

Ample is a battery swapping company. You can learn more about its battery swapping tech here and in the video here:

Regarding its latest development with Mitsubishi Fuso, yesterday, Ample wrote: “When we set out to build our next-generation battery-swapping station, one of our most important objectives was to build a station that can support larger delivery vehicles. Accounting for 25–30% of emissions in towns and cities globally, last-mile delivery is a key sector to prioritize in an electrification solution.

“Hence, we worked closely with Mitsubishi Fuso, an integral part of Daimler Truck, to inform our design and spearhead building a solution that can be leveraged by last-mile-delivery fleets who’re transitioning to EVs. Today, we’re incredibly excited to officially announce our work with Mitsubishi Fuso and our partnership to deliver modular battery swapping to electric trucks. Our partnership will deliver Mitsubishi Fuso electric trucks powered by Ample’s Modular Battery Swapping technology. The initial deployment will leverage Mitsubishi Fuso’s latest all-electric FUSO eCanter starting this winter in Japan. We’ll announce shortly the companies we’re working with who’ll be utilizing the eCanter to electrify their fleets.”

Is this the beginning of big things to come for Mitsubishi Fuso and Ample? Will this be the perfect electric last-mile delivery option for the streets of Japan? The FUSO eCanter has been around for a while. Production began in July 2017 in Portugal. But it’s not rolling out in high volumes in cities around the world. It is a bit handicapped by low range, with a full-charge range of 62–200 miles. Battery swapping can help it out, though. With battery swap stations located in the right places, truck drivers can easily stop for a few minutes to get fresh, grab a snack, or grab a coffee while the truck battery gets swapped out for a new one. Or, if swap stations were located where the truck is doing a pickup or delivery, drivers may not need to stop for a swap at all. Location, location, location. And planning.

“With our next-generation swapping stations, Ample will offer last-mile delivery trucks a gas-station-like experience where electric trucks can get a full charge in 5 minutes ensuring maximum on-the-road utilization of the vehicle. In addition, Ample’s drive-through experience will further simplify the experience for the operator of the vehicle who doesn’t need to back out of the station at the end of a swap. And while a truck is being swapped, it can be loaded and unloaded allowing for additional operational efficiencies.” That all sounds well planned and convenient.

Is it finally time for battery swapping to shine? (Outside of NIO’s extensive, popular network, of course.) Perhaps that time is getting close. We’ll see how the collaboration in Japan goes and how quickly such electric delivery swapping services become commonplace (or not).

Note that Ample just released its next-gen battery swapping station in May. “While it may sound simple, the next generation of our EV battery-swapping system is a major feat that took years of R&D, thousands of swaps, and more than a million electric miles driven behind the scenes to make it possible,” the company wrote. “Since we publicly debuted in 2021 after 7 years in stealth, we’ve deployed Ample across the Bay Area and worked closely with fleet partners such as Uber and Sally to fully test our technology with real drivers so that we could better understand their needs and the impact of battery swapping on their business operations.

“In addition to our live deployments, we worked with other types of fleets — specifically in the last-mile delivery space — to understand the impact of battery swapping on their use cases. When working with these fleets, we continuously heard that despite well-intentioned efforts to electrify fleets, drivers could spend upwards of 10–12 hours, or 25% of a work week, at a charging station. We’ve heard from cities that, in the race to electrify, there is a lack of reliable EV charging for city dwellers who don’t have access to garages and the option of overnight charging, and our new solution seeks to fix that. […]

“By design, we’ve invented our system to facilitate a lateral move from gas to be just as fast, as simple and as cheap, all while being a completely green solution.” The new design cut battery swap time down from 10 minutes to 5 minutes. We’ll see how it performs in Japan and report back.


 


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