Stellantis, the parent company of car brands including Vauxhall, Fiat, Jeep and Maserati, plans to build a network of battery-swapping stations, where the depleted battery of an electric car can be swapped for a new one in under five minutes.
The group has announced a partnership with Ample, a San Francisco-based company that is developing a modular battery-swapping system for EVs. It will begin offering a battery swap service as a subscription in 2024.
Initially, the swap stations will only be available to a fleet of shared Fiat 500e cars based in Madrid, Spain and operated by Stellantis’ Free2move service. Still, there are plans to expand the network of swap stations in the future. This will include cars from other brands of the sprawling Stellantis group, and other countries too.
Stellantis says an empty battery can be swapped for a fully charged one in under five minutes, eliminating the need to plug into an EV charger and wait for the battery to refill. “The partnership with Ample is another example of how Stellantis is exploring all avenues that enable freedom of mobility for our electric vehicle customers,” said Ricardo Stamatti, head of the car group’s Energy Business unit.
Stellantis and Ample aren’t the only companies exploring EV battery swapping. Chinese startup Nio already operates a network of 1,300 swap stations across China, including 100 in Shanghai alone. Nio drivers can charge their batteries as normal, or call into a swap station and have their car autonomously drive itself into a bay and have its battery swapped for a full one in just a few minutes.
As with Stellantis and Ample, Nio’s battery-swap service is offered to drivers as a paid subscription. Nio also operates around a dozen swap stations in Europe, with plans to expand in the future.
Tesla briefly experimented with a battery swapping station of its own, way back in 2014, but the idea was soon canned.
Ample boss Khaled Hassounah said of the Stellatis partnership: “The combination of offering compelling electric vehicles that can also receive a full charge in less than five minutes will help remove the remaining impediments to electric vehicle adoption.”
Stellantis says how Ample’s system allows for “a drop-in replacement for an electric vehicle’s original battery,” adding: “This is made possible by Ample’s modular batteries, which can fit into any electric vehicle, and would allow Stellantis to integrate Ample’s technology without reengineering its vehicle platforms.”