Exchangeable Batteries To Optimise Micromobility

Exchangeable Batteries To Enhance Sustainable Mobility In Smart Cities

The year 2020 is predicted to bring a huge wave of change in the world of mobility. While many are realizing the impact of fossil fuels, micromobility devices such as bicycles, e-bikes, and electric scooters will replace cars. The main reason is the advent of exchangeable batteries into this realm.

Also known as swappable batteries, these enable EV owners and operators to replace depleted batteries with fully charged ones. The process takes just a couple of minutes while paving way for opportunities. It can significantly increase fleet uptime and reduce operational costs.

The time-consuming recharge of batteries is one of the biggest downsides of micromobility devices. While the vehicles are off the street for recharging, it draws away a lot of value from the operators. This is when exchangeable batteries could work as game-changers.

As per Inrix, many smart cities across the US, UK, and Germany have the greatest potential to reduce car trips. This has given rise to dozens of micromobility startups offering exchangeable battery solutions. Going ahead, let’s find out something more about swappable batteries.

E-bility And EIT InnoEnergy Collaboration

EIT InnoEnergy, a European innovation Institute is working with startup e-bility to develop a chain of sustainable mobility startups. E-bility founded in the town of Remagen in Germany is the mobility startup backing the Germany-based Kumpan Electric e-scooter brand. With help from EIT InnoEnergy, the startup will be able to expand its products and services into more European markets. These include Austria, Benelux, France, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Registration of electric mopeds, motorcycles, and quadricycles reached 58,295 in the first three quarters of 2019. As per the European Association of Motorcycle Manufacturers (ACEM), this has resulted in a 61% increase when compared with the same period in 2018.

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Hence, with the micromobility trend on the rise, EIT InnoEnergy will provide e-bility with access to its ecosystem and a wide range of resources. Additionally, it will also provide funding of nearly  €3 million.

An important project under this collaboration is to introduce an exchangeable smart battery system in Kumpan e-scooters. The company will provide a plug-and-play solution managed by AI software. This swappable battery system will be introduced in the Kumpan 1954Ri with 4 kW and 70 km/h and 7 kW and 100 km/h versions.

The advanced benefit of this battery system is that it can be detached from scooters and recharges in standard sockets. Moreover, it has the capability to be applied to a range of other battery-powered tools such as lawnmowers. 

As per EIT InnoEnergy, this smart battery system could become an existential standard for sustainable design in micromobility devices.

Voi e-Scooters In Paris 

The Future Shift To Swappable Batteries By Scooter Companies

The Sweden-based Voi is an e-scooter operator expanding its services across Europe. In partnership with Ernst & Young (EY), the startup released its maiden Life Cycle Assessment of an e-scooter in use in Paris. Along with EY, startups recognized the benefits e-scooters can bring to smart cities. These e-scooters use the exchangeable battery model for efficient utilization.

It found out facts and figures as follows:

  • The exchangeable battery model is estimated to have a 24-month lifespan
  • The e-scooters produce 35g CO2 equivalents per person per kilometer in emissions (this is in line with emissions from public transport)
  • The Voi micro-mobility operations helped achieve a 51% drop in emissions
  • 20 million users of e-scooters are present across Europe
  • 63% of Voi’s users have chosen e-scooters in combination with public transport

Voi’s mission is to provide a sustainable transport option across Europe, including Paris. It is helping cut down emissions while demonstrating that e-scooters have great potential in creating a sustainable transportation system. And as the study concludes these are as sustainable as public transport.

The Insight From Zoba

The Boston-based Zoba is a startup providing intelligent services to micromobility companies. It aids in predicting the exact place and time when a customer would want to use scooters, mopeds or bikes. Zoba provides an optimization tool that enables these vehicles to align with daily customer demand.

Zoba is also into the swappable batteries business. Joseph Brennan, the company’s co-founder provides insight into the rising trend of exchangeable batteries. 

By 2020, almost every major scooter company is expecting to shift to swappable fleets. The reason is that the exchangeable batteries allow operators to replace vehicle batteries on-site. Meaning that the vehicle stays on the street on a daily basis. This comes as a huge benefit as it cuts down the hauling of vehicles to the warehouse. Or, paying third parties to for recharging batteries. They only need to deploy vehicles that are new or need to be sent for maintenance purposes. Simultaneously, the operational model of removing, charging and redeploying scooters at stations will gradually come to end.

If managed correctly, the exchangeable batteries should come as a boon for micromobility operators. However, at the same time, there are also challenges for operators. Because many of them are struggling with basic optimization of their non-swappable fleets. And hence, they are not prepared to shift to the swappable system. Keeping this in mind, Zoba is providing the ‘rebalancing’ service as a support to overcome the existential challenges for operators. The startup aims at sharing their established knowledge that comes from different markets and operating models.

Although rebalancing is not new to the micromobility landscape, it will become the key when exchangeable batteries are the new standard. Along with micromobility, Zoba also offers services in the car-sharing sphere. 

Benefits of Exchangeable Batteries For Smart City Operators 

Earlier the context delved into the benefits of swappable batteries already. Putting everything together, the integration of exchangeable batteries with micromobility vehicles will bring a longer-lasting effect than the first iterations. It will bring a major shift in the micromobility industry with better profitability.

From the smart city perspective, it will bring multifaceted sustainability benefits. The exchangeable batteries are available for utilization in two different models.

The first one is that operational battery exchange teams can be hired to replace the depleted batteries with fully charged ones. Then, the depleted batteries are taken back to the charging facility for recharge. This model is increasingly becoming popular among the operators in various smart cities. At present, this system is being followed by Uber’s JUMP. It is the company’s electric bike that operates using its app.

The other model is where operators can choose to deploy stations or kiosks in retail stores or city streets. Here, the users can be incentivized with rewards such as ride credits to exchange the batteries on their own. This system could be rather more beneficial for the operators as they do not require an operational team for swapping tasks. However, at the same time, it is important that this model is convenient for riders.

Challenges 

All this being said, the exchangeable batteries model comes with some challenges. Reportedly, developing a swappable battery network is expensive. The expense could be two to three times costlier than the direct-current fast charging.

Besides, as micromobility operators shift to the swappable model, they need to agree with the design norms of battery swap startups. The vehicle design should be compatible with an exchangeable battery model.

Hence, to overcome such challenges, it is essential that operators and startups work in collaboration for optimum results. As per experts, the approach needs to be collaborative, integrative while managed in a responsible manner. This calls for proper regulations in place for the sustainable use of micromobility devices.

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