InfraMobility-Dianba, together with TotalEnergies, plans to implement the first European battery swap station for 465 swaps daily at Berlin's BER Airport. The first target group is e-taxis. Dieter Flämig and Alexander Yu Li explain in an interview why battery swapping has a future.
Springer Professional: What was the motivation behind founding InfraMobility-Dianba GmbH in 2019?
Flämig: We, the German founders of the joint venture with Aulton Dianba, had recognized in our own market analysis that the European plug-in course was too complex and lengthy. We are convinced that only fast and inexpensive battery swap at service stations can quickly bring e-mobility to the mainstream. Moreover, as experience with service stations shows, the solution that is car brand-neutral and battery brand-neutral will win.
An InfraDianba demo facility for passenger cars has already been in operation at Berlin's Westhafen since 2019. How exactly does the battery swap technology work in the facility?
Li: Battery swapping for e-cars up to 3.5 t takes place at our facility using the drive-through method. Through an exchange frame in the floor of the car, a robot in the station's substructure removes the used battery and replaces it with a charged battery. Compatibility is ensured by a standardized universal housing and a standardized exchange frame (previously: industry standard).
How does the InfraDianba technology differ from that of other battery swap technology suppliers such as Nio?
Li: Our Aulton-Dianba technology offers car brand-neutral and battery brand-neutral drive-through swap stations (20 s technical swap time). This was made possible by our battery universal housing, the standards of which have already been agreed upon by 16 automakers, including VW partner SAIC and Mercedes-Benz partner BAIC. Every manufacturer can install its special modules in this universal housing. It is even possible for the customer to request a special type of battery in our stations when it comes to car brands with high scaling.
What battery storage capacity or how many exchangeable batteries are needed to operate a station?
Li: The batteries are driven to the station by the e-mobile users themselves (subsidiarity principle). For 1,000 changes per day (with a handling time of 1 to 1.5 min for Aulton/InfraDianba stations), only an extra storage of 60 exchangeable batteries is needed (i.e. for 2,000 to 3,000 customers per station). These are to be provided once as an initial storage unit when the station is installed. This additional requirement is far outweighed by the positive lifetime effects of the system (factor 3 to 4). The technology can be implemented in an uncomplicated manner, nationwide and in line with demand by retrofitting the service stations. The nationwide network plug-in, on the other hand, will only be possible in its full breadth after decades of local network expansion costing many billions of euros.
How sustainable is the battery swap concept when you also consider the additional demand for the batteries used and the logistics behind it?
Flämig: Our sustainability concept aims to achieve four times the battery life. It includes gentle charging, lightwave quality control of the batteries and kWh customer bonuses for those customers who hand in their batteries with a higher status of charging. In addition, batteries that are already charged are used for dual use in the smart grid, which further increases battery life. This is because battery use for primary control power is like a fitness program for batteries. An additional battery demand of 1.06 meets a higher battery life effect of 3.5 and more. Subsidiary provision of batteries, reuse of gas stations, agro-solar and multi-use of batteries makes express battery swapping finally a pioneer of logistics of sustainability.
European car manufacturers are cautious on the subject of exchangeable batteries. What do you think is the reason for this?
Flämig: In China, 80% of automakers are already switching to battery swapping. In Europe, MG and Renault, for example, are already pursuing this new course. The question is: When will express battery swapping become established in Europe? The answer: When the highly dynamic lead market of China leads European OEMs to also offer battery swaps in Asia and they are thus finally able to launch their own attractive battery swap vehicles on the market in Europe. However, the express battery swap will become established in Europe at the latest with the used e-car market. No one wants to buy old e-cars that are still dragging along teething troubles. We are already negotiating with major converters who are converting old E-cars affordably for this "pit stop for all."
You are working on a project for the future called "Swaptopus". What's behind it?
Flämig: Swaptopus is a interconnected energy station for mobility and the grid with the following components: 1. The "Mobigrid" power core, consisting of a battery swap station 4.0 with up to 1,000 swaps per day, a dual-use battery storage power plant and an auxiliary storage unit that is partially fed by a balancing group; 2. A special balancing group "battery switch power purchase" that purchases low-cost RE power from sources such as agro-PV plants, building PV plants, surplus power from local wind farms and the like, as well as low-cost RE power from conventional grid supply; 3. A connected regional power market divided into virtual power plants, smart grid, external balancing groups, and on-site micro grids.
This interview complements the article Fast Swapping Instead of Slow Charging – A Comeback of the Interchangeable Battery? published in ATZworldwide 10-2022.