Geely Technology Group has announced plans to roll out thousands of electric vehicle (EV) battery swapping stations across China in the coming years. The service, called E-Energee, opened its first station in Chongqing in September 2020. Ten additional stations have opened since, and according to Geely, the company plans to construct up to 5,000 across China by 2025.
E-Energee’s service enables EV drivers to pull into a station and swap their battery for a fully charged one in under a minute. Payments occur through an automatic digital subscription service, and there is no need for a driver to exit the vehicle. Though there are over 100,000 cars with battery-swapping systems on the road in China today, fleet companies primarily use E-Energee’s technology.
Geely’s Chinese competitors, NIO and BAIC, also have large-scale battery-swapping station programs underway. NIO promotes its process as taking just three minutes, including the battery exchange and a system check. Meanwhile, BAIC plans to build 100 battery-swap stations in 2021 and retrofit 50,000 existing taxis with battery-swap-enabled EVs in time for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.
The Chinese government is reportedly supportive of battery swapping and has integrated it into its growing transportation infrastructure. In 2020, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology stated clear support of these systems: “We will actively promote the demonstration application of battery-swap mode and improve the system and standardization. As the next step, we will optimize the development environment, guide enterprises to improve battery-swap technology, promote the formation of a more mature business model, and further improve the convenience of new energy vehicle usage.”
Although battery swapping is not a new concept, it has yet to popularize outside of China. In 2012, a Palo Alto, CA-based company called Better Place opened its first battery swap station in Tel Aviv, Israel. The network eventually grew to 21 stations across Israel, but in 2013, the company filed for bankruptcy.
Most automotive manufacturers outside of China are focused on cutting charging times versus integrating battery-swapping technology. Geely’s parent company, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, owns several vehicle manufacturers, including Sweden-based Volvo Cars and UK-based Lotus. While Volvo is transitioning to a fully electric manufacturer by 2030, it has yet to announce any plans to integrate battery swapping capabilities into its vehicles.