San Francisco Startup Ample Develops an EV Battery Swap Station that Can Replace Any Electric Vehicle Battery in Under 10 Minutes
【Summary】San Francisco startup Ample unveiled its new EV battery swapping station this week, which can remove and replace an electric vehicle’s battery modules in under 10 minutes autonomously using robotics. Ample’s modular battery swapping technology acts as a drop-in replacement for the vehicle’s original battery design, so it can work with any make or model.
Charging the battery is one of the pain points of owning an electric vehicle. While EV charging infrastructure is becoming more readily available, especially in dense urban areas, the charging process itself can take hours before a vehicle's battery is fully charged.
However, one of the ways to address long charging times is simply swap out the vehicle's discharged battery for one that's already fully charged in a process that takes minutes instead of hours. The idea is gaining traction and San Francisco startup Ample developed a solution to make it easier—and much faster.
The company unveiled its new modular EV battery swapping station on Wednesday, which was the result of seven years of research and development while working in "stealth mode."
Removing an electric vehicle's battery pack in under 10 minutes is not an easy task. So Ample developed a way to perform this process autonomously using robotics. It works for any EV, including popular models like the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Bolt EV and Kia Niro.
Ample's modular battery swapping technology can work with any EV design, regardless of size, since it acts as a drop-in replacement for the vehicle's original battery design.
Ample's battery swapping technology has two primary components. The first is a fully-autonomous swapping station that that uses a robot to remove battery modules from the under the vehicle and replaces them with fully charged ones. These discharged battery modules are then placed on storage shelves where they are recharged and ready for the next vehicle they will be installed in.
The second part is the company's modular EV battery module architecture, which resembles "Lego blocks." This Lego-like battery design allows for any EV to use one of Ample's swapping stations.
The battery module uses an adapter plate that also acts as the structural element of the battery. It has the same dimensions and the bolt pattern as the original one in the vehicle. Ample said it worked closely with automakers to integrate its design with existing electric vehicle platforms. The integration process takes around 2-3 months of working closely with an automaker, the company said.
"It's the same as replacing the tire," Ample's co-founder and chief executive Khaled Hassounah told TechCrunch.
"We don't modify the car whatsoever. You either put a fixed battery system or an Ample battery plate. We're able to work with the OEMs where you can make the battery swappable for the use cases where this makes a lot of sense without really changing the same vehicle," Hassounah said.
As a part of Ample's collaboration with Uber, drivers in San Francisco can rent an EV with Ample's battery swapping hardware preinstalled, which allows Ample to quickly switch out the battery in a matter of minutes. This provides the driver with more availability to pick up riders instead of being grounded waiting for their vehicle's battery to charge.
Ample says its modular battery swapping station is designed for rapid deployment and can be rolled out across an entire city in just weeks. This could make it much easier for drivers of electric vehicles by providing them with an alternative to long charging times, as well as having to find an available EV charger.
The modular system also addresses the issues of high deployment costs and long construction times for building out EV charging infrastructure, since the EV charging station itself doesn't require any costly construction projects. It can be assembled in a space as small as two parking spots. This makes the battery swap station a convenient option for shopping centers, grocery stores, highway rest stops, and ironically gas stations.
Ample's modular EV charging station also has the additional benefit of being able to capture wind and solar power when it's available, and use that energy to supplement EV charging when needed, the company said.
Since its founding 7 years ago, Ample set out to address the typical slow process of charging an EV, as well as the lack of convenient charging locations which the company believes is hindering the adoption of EVs around the world.
According to Ample, long charging times put electric vehicles at a significant disadvantage to gasoline-powered ones for many use cases, including high-utilization fleets and EV drivers living in cities without access to overnight charging.
Ample believes that its approach addresses these challenges and enables a seamless transition to electric mobility.
The other problem being addressed by Ample is being able to charge electric vehicles with renewable energy sources without major investments in grid infrastructure to store the renewable energy to power public EV charging stations.
Ample is initially targeting fleet customers. From there the company plans to accelerate the deployment of a wide-scale network that can support consumer vehicles, the company said.
Ample's charging stations are currently being deployed regionally in the Bay Area. In addition to the company's collaboration with Uber, it's actively working with a wide range of ride-sharing, last-mile delivery and municipal fleet partners.
Ample is also working with a number of the world's largest automakers to enable mass deployment of EVs in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Ample declined to name the companies at this early stage.
Ample is inviting other fleets and automakers to collaborate in order to boost the number of EVs on the road. Ample's bold plans include to help put up to one billion EVs on the roads worldwide.
Building a futuristic and fast EV battery swapping station that works with different makes and models is a big first step towards that goal.
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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