The world's largest manufacturer of electric vehicle batteries, CATL, has officially launched its EVOGO battery swap service in China with the opening of the first four stations on Xiamen Island, Fujian Province, on April 18.

CATL's network of fast battery swap stations on the island and the surrounding area is expected to grow to 30 by the end of this year, when drivers located anywhere in Xiamen will find an EVOGO battery swap station within a radius of 3 kilometers (1.8 miles).

Operated by CATL subsidiary Contemporary Amperex Energy Service Technology Ltd. (CAES), the EVOGO battery swap service will provide EV consumers an alternative to recharging, allowing those without access to a charger to enjoy the EV experience.

The battery swapping stations are compatible with electric vehicles featuring LFP battery modules called Choco-SEB (after their resemblance to chocolate blocks), with each one holding 26.5 kWh of energy. The battery blocks use CATL's latest CTP (cell-to-pack) technology and have an energy density of over 160Wh/kg or 325Wh/L.

For now, the first vehicle to adopt Choco-SEBs is the Bestune NAT (Next Automatic Taxi) built by FAW Group, which offers approximately 200 kilometers (124 miles) of range from one battery module.

CATL EVOGO battery-swapping station in Xiamen, China

The battery modules are owned by CATL, which means EV users don't have to worry about battery degradation, service or replacement. Furthermore, by using modules, EV users can choose to run on a single module when covering short distances, which means the vehicle will avoid carrying unnecessary battery weight. When going on longer trips, user can simply add a second or third module depending on their needs.

Currently, CATL charges RMB 399 ($62) for renting one Choco-SEB module per month, although pricing will be dynamically adjusted according to the level of power consumption by users.

According to CATL, for each battery swap service at a station, the cost is almost the same as that of the DC fast-charging service, which is also subject to dynamic adjustment according to different station locations and time slots.

Swapping the batteries is much faster, though. When CATL first announced the EVOGO battery swapping network in January, it said that swapping a single battery module takes about one minute, with users accessing the service via an app.

In the future, CATL plans to collaborate with more partners to release more EVOGO-compatible vehicle models and expand the network of fast battery swap stations in more Chinese cities. The company will initially set up stations in ten cities around the country. 

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