Charging vs swapping: Personal EV makers champion former, but swapping advocates espouse both

Charging vs swapping: Personal EV makers champion former, but swapping advocates espouse both

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Aparajita Saxena

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Aparajita Saxena

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Leading personal electric two-wheeler makers such as Hero Electric, Ola, and Ather have all chosen to go the charging-only route. With the govt declining to standardise EV battery design, battery swapping seems even less viable for personal EVs. A handful of companies, though, beg to differ.

January 17, 2023

9 MINS READ

With the Union government set to announce its battery swapping policy at the budget meeting on February 1, Minister of Consumer Affairs Piyush Goyal chaired a meeting with government think tank NITI Aayog officials and electric vehicle (EV) industry stakeholders on January 3. The meeting was meant to help arrive at a consensus on how battery swapping in the country should play out.

At the meeting, the government—which previously went as far as to greenlight the sale of battery-less EVs to encourage swapping—broke from its oft-stated intention to standardise the form factor of EV batteries. While this would make batteries more interoperable, thereby offering consumers an alternative to charging when strapped for time or charging infrastructure, the government took heed of concerns from the wider industry about standardising batteries.

Two sources told The CapTable that the government would instead focus on creating standards around EV battery safety. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has also been engaged to formulate quality norms for the safety and performance of EV batteries. However, decisions taken during the meeting are still being discussed and have not been formally finalised. One of the sources quoted above said there’s likely going to be another meeting soon to address other issues.

The decision not to standardise comes as a relief to stakeholders, many of whom feared design standardisation for a host of reasons. The foremost concern with standardisation was that battery manufacturers may have to overhaul their existing infrastructure to accommodate the government’s specifications. There was an added worry that it could discourage innovation.

Even as the government works to fine-tune its battery swapping policy, a few things are clear going forward. Most obviously, battery swapping will become more inconvenient for personal vehicle owners. For battery-as-a-service, or BaaS, players, they will either have to produce a myriad of different battery types, tie-up with bigger incumbents in the commercial or personal mobility space, thus complicating their business, or resign themselves to only servicing a small sliver of the EV market. Finally, and perhaps most crucially, the future of India’s personal EV revolution will largely be powered by charging.

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