Ample, the EV battery swapping startup based in California, recently introduced its second-generation battery swap station and we were invited to the event to check it out. 

The company has twelve of its first-generation battery swap stations operating in the Bay Area and two in Madrid, Spain. I was told that the stations they have in California perform hundreds of battery swaps every day in a pilot program with Ample's partner Uber and have been in service since 2021.

Ample Aims To Spread A Battery Swapping System For All EVs

Ample's co-founders, John de Souza and Khaled Hassounah in front of one of the company's first-generation battery swap stations. 

The second generation battery swap station, introduced on May 15th, 2023, has a few notable improvements over gen-1. 

First, and perhaps most important, the new station is said to cut the battery swap time in half, from ten minutes to five. Another huge improvement is the design. The new stations are pull-through layouts, allowing for easier exit from the site after the battery swap has been made. 

Safety has also been improved because the second-gen stations allow the passengers to safely enter and exit the vehicle during the battery-swapping process, something they cannot do with the first version. That's possible because the entire platform now lifts up for the swap instead of only the vehicle. The first generation station lifted the car up by the wheels, and passengers couldn't safely get in or out during the process. 

Ample battery swap second generation
Ample battery swap second generation

Ample's 2nd-generation battery swap station features a pull-through design

Ample has taken a different approach than others currently offering battery swap services. That's because they don't swap out a single, large battery pack. Instead, Ample swaps out individual battery modules and can change the number of modules it replaces for each swap. For instance, a customer may only need 30 kWh of battery for the work week but then wants a 90 kWh pack for longer drives on the weekends. 

Interestingly, Ample says its battery swap architecture allows the company to offer battery swap as an option for any existing and future EV, without forcing the manufacturer to reengineer its vehicle. Personally, I need to have a better understanding of how that will work before I fully believe it. For instance, how does the vehicle's battery thermal management system integrate into Ample's battery pack and modules? 

The company also tells us it's currently in talks with five major automakers to offer a battery lease option through Ample and that they will soon have announcements on that front. Currently, only Fisker has committed to offering Ample's battery leasing and swap model and will offer it to customers in the first quarter of 2024. 

Ample Aims To Spread A Battery Swapping System For All EVs

Ample's swappable battery modules 

We don't have any information on what Ample plans to charge as a monthly leasing fee, but there will be multiple options based on the size of the pack and the time of day that the customer wants the swap to occur. Customers won't have to pay upfront for the battery, which will mean the initial cost of the vehicle will be substantially less. 

Personally, I can see how this will work well for fleets and car-sharing services that need their vehicles to operate for the majority of the day. But in order for battery swap to work for regular customers, the battery swap stations need to be ubiquitous - and that would mean an enormous investment, likely in the billions. 

Ample's battery swap stations are built in the company's California facility and are delivered to the site in three sections, allowing easy and quick setup. I was also told a single battery swap station only requires a 100-kW electric service, which is drastically less electricity demand than a typical DC fast charge site. That will allow the company to set up its stations quickly with utility interconnect much less challenging than it is to install a row of 350 kW DC fast chargers. 

Ample has announced the first installation of its 2nd-gen swap stations will be in Tokyo, Japan, and will happen towards the end of this year. They also have plans to install about a dozen of them in Spain as well as in the US. 

We're in the process of arranging to have one of Ample's founders make an appearance on the InsideEVs podcast, which is recorded live every Friday at 9:30 am Eastern, So if you're interested in this topic, tune into the show and post your questions and comments.

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