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Stellantis, Ample Partner to Offer EV Battery Swaps

fiat-500e-2024-02-exterior-profile-oem 2024 Fiat 500e | Manufacturer image

Even today’s fastest-charging electric vehicles replenish their range at a fraction of the rate a vehicle with an internal combustion engine does. Tesla says its Superchargers can add up to 200 miles of range in 15 minutes depending on the conditions and type of vehicle they’re charging. If pumping in 8 gallons of gas for an ICE vehicle took more than a couple of minutes, you’d probably stop, move to a different pump and still be back on the road in less than five minutes.

San Francisco-based Ample believes it can replenish range in any EV in about the same amount of time it takes to refuel a gas vehicle, helping to reduce range anxiety and battery wear. How? By swapping the batteries out for fully charged cells rather than charging what’s in the vehicle — and a new partnership with automaker Stellantis is putting that belief to the test. Kicking off in Madrid, Spain, the initial phase of the agreement will involve 100 electric Fiat 500e hatchbacks from Stellantis’s Free2Move car-sharing service. (Stellantis is Fiat’s parent automaker.)

Related: How Much Do Electric Car Batteries Cost to Replace?

Hacking Swapping

Battery swapping was once a large part of the conversation around EVs and the infrastructure overhaul necessary to accommodate them. Tesla showed off a Model S battery swap in 2013 before going silent on the project; Better Place, a startup that collaborated with French automaker Renault, showed some promise with the idea and built a few dozen battery-swapping stations in Israel before going bankrupt, also in 2013.

Ample says that what sets it apart is its modular battery design, which the company says is “designed to be a drop-in replacement for an electric vehicle’s original battery” and will “allow Stellantis to integrate Ample’s technology without reengineering its vehicle platforms.” The company has previously stated this design allows its swapping stations to swap out an entire battery pack or just a few modules depending on the driver’s needs.

Slow Down a Minute

EV battery packs are complex and expensive components. Swapping out an entire unit or just individual modules raises a new set of questions surrounding ownership and value, which is why deployments of Ample’s technology to date — including the Stellantis agreement — have largely involved fleet vehicles rather than consumer cars. The company operates a number of battery-swapping stations around its headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area in a partnership with Uber. EV owners separately leasing their battery through Ample could be a solution, but until the EV market is on more solid footing, it’s hard to imagine any automaker wanting to further complicate the purchase for its customers.

That’s a down-the-road discussion. Arrangements like the one between Stellantis and Ample function as a proof of concept, gauging the desirability of a new technology and process while helping automakers and others in the transportation industry figure out where such a system might make sense. Where exactly this agreement may lead is yet to be seen, but the partners note they are also in discussions regarding the expansion of Ample’s battery-swapping tech to meet Stellantis fleet and consumer demands beyond Madrid and the 500e.

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