Tesla's Battery Supplier CATL Launches its ‘EVOGO' EV Battery Swapping Service in China
【Summary】Chinese battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Ltd. (CATL), which is the world’s leading supplier of electric vehicle batteries to automakers, has launched its own EV battery swapping business in China via its wholly-owned subsidiary “EVOGO”. The EVOGO battery swap service allows drivers with no access to indoor parking spaces for home or work charging to drive a battery-powered vehicle.
One of the ways manufacturers of electric vehicles are addressing the lack of convenient EV charging infrastructure is by building vehicles with removal batteries, which can be swapped out for a fully-charged one in just minutes.
Chinese electric vehicle startup and Tesla rival NIO Inc has gone this route and is opening hundreds of EV battery swapping stations in China, and will soon open more in Europe as the company expands outside of its home country.
Now, Chinese battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Ltd. (CATL), which is the world's leading supplier of electric vehicle batteries to automakers, has launched its own EV battery swapping business in China via its wholly-owned subsidiary "EVOGO".
CATL officially launched the first four EVOGO battery swap services on April 18 in Xiamen, southeast China's Fujian Province, making it the world's first EVOGO city. The four EVOGO battery swap stations are located in Siming District, Huli District and Haicang District of Xiamen.
The number of battery swap stations in Xiamen is expected to increase to 30 by the end of the year. Each swapping station will be located within a 3-kilometer radius.
CATL's EVOGO battery swap service allows drivers with no access to indoor parking spaces for home or at work charging to drive a battery-powered vehicle without the worry of having to find convenient charging locations.
CATL's New "Choco-SEB" Battery Modules
Completing the EV battery swap requires the vehicle to have a standardized battery layout that's compatible with EVOGO's automated equipment, which removes the discharged modules from underneath the vehicle in about one minute.
CATL's swappable battery design resembles a bar of chocolate. CATL calls it the "Choco-SEB (swapping electric block)". The design boasts the advantages of high-energy density with a compact size and minimalist design, according to CATL.
A standard EVOGO battery swap station can house up to 48 Choco-SEBs, allowing for one-minute swapping for a single battery block. Having individual blocks ensures that fully charged batteries are made available for customers without long wait times.
Depending on the vehicle's state-of-charge, customers exchange one to three battery blocks to meet different range requirements at swap stations, according to CATL. The Choco-SEB's are built using CATL's latest CTP (cell-to-pack) battery technology. Each one offers an additional driving range of 200 km (124 miles).
CATL says its Choco-SEB is compatible with 80% of the global battery-electric vehicles (BEV) available on the market, as well as all EV platform-based models to be released in the next three years globally.
The Bestune NAT multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) from Chinese automaker FAW Group will be the first vehicle that the battery swapping service will be compatible with, but more models would be included in the near future.
CATL is offering drivers the option of renting a single Choco-SEB block for RMB 399 per month ($63.00). However the final cost will be dynamically adjusted according to different levels of power consumption by users, according to CATL. The pricing is subject to dynamic adjustment according to different station locations and time slots.
For each battery swap service at the swap station, the charge is almost the same as paying for a monthly DC fast charging service, according to CATL.
EV drivers can have one or more individual battery modules swapped out at an EVOGO station depending on their range needs.
With the launch of the EVOGO battery swapping service in China, more EV drivers will have access to convenient refueling services as the EV adoption rate climbs in the country.
Contemporary Amperex Energy Service Technology Ltd. (CAES), which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of CATL, has entered into agreements with multiple partners as part of its "city partner plan". All parties involved are cooperating in technology, resources and services to facilitate the construction of the battery swap network and promote EVOGO vehicle models in Xiamen.
Chinese automakers NIO, which is one of Tesla's biggest rivals in China, was the first automaker to offer EV battery swapping services. NIO owners can swap out the batteries in their NIO vehicle at one of hundreds of battery swapping stations called "NIO Power".
The battery swapping stations are part of a larger EV charging ecosystem being constructed by NIO in China that includes a mixture of conventional EV charging and NIO's mobile charging vans.
From 2022 to 2025, NIO plans to install 600 new battery swap stations across China. By 2025, the automaker plans to have 4,000 battery swapping stations online globally. Roughly 1,000 of these will be located outside of NIO's home market of China.
Earlier this month, the Financial Times reported that NIO is in talks to license its electric vehicle battery swapping technology to rival automakers.
In addition, since the batteries are easily removable in NIO's vehicles, the company offers a unique battery exchange program to customers in China that allows them to upgrade the standard battery in their vehicle for a small monthly fee.
NIO customers with the standard 70 or 75 kWh battery pack in their vehicles can upgrade to a more powerful and longer range 100 kWh battery by paying an additional 880 yuan ($140) a month. The 100 kWh battery pack has a NEDC range of 615 km (382 miles) and is available as an option on NIO vehicles.
San Francisco-based startup Ample is also offering a similar type of battery swap service for Uber drivers in the city.
Ample unveiled its battery swapping technology in March 2021, which the company said was the result of seven years of research and development. 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.
Like NIO, Ample developed a way to perform the battery swap process autonomously using robotics. The company says the process works for any EV, including popular models like the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Bolt EV and Kia Niro EV.
Ample's battery swapping technology has two primary components. The first is a fully-autonomous swapping station that uses a robot to remove battery modules and replace 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.
In Dec 2021, CATL began phase 1 production at its newest EV battery factory in China. The first phase of operations will have an annual capacity of 60 GWh and the additional 60 GWh for phase 2. An annual output of 120 GWh is enough to power around 1.2 million EVs.
Once completed, the CATL plant will be the world's largest EV battery factory. It will be more than three times the size of Tesla's gigafactory in Nevada.
CATL is investing 17 billion yuan (US$2.6 billion) in the factory.
In March, Sichuan Contemporary Amperex Technology Limited (CATL-SC), which is another wholly-owned subsidiary of CATL, received the internationally recognized specification for carbon neutrality ("PAS 2060" certification) for its new EV battery plant in China.
The recent PAS 2060 certification marks a significant milestone towards CATL's carbon neutrality goals and makes the facility the world's first zero-carbon battery factory.
CATL was founded in 2011 after making lithium ion batteries for consumer electronics since 1999. The company got its start working on the Zhangbei energy storage project, which at the time was the largest wind and solar energy project in the world. CATL has since pivoted to making batteries for automakers.
From 2017 to 2020, CATL ranked first in the world for four consecutive years in terms of the total installed capacity of batteries in electric vehicles.
CATL is a major battery supplier to Tesla. In Feb 2020, CATL inked a two-year deal to supply batteries to Tesla for its vehicles built at its factory in Shanghai. CATL supplies Tesla with lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries.
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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