Reader Question: Battery Swaps?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Mike asks: Really enjoying your writing on electric cars, tho I admit I like them and want them to work just because. I’ve always felt the idea of “battery change” stations, where you could quick-swap in a charged battery, was key to making them workable. It occurs to me that not many need a 200 mile range every day. I could easily use a 30-mile-range pack most of the year, and just swap in a 200 when I go on a longer distance visit. Most people using smaller batteries would add up to a large overall cost reduction, no?

My reply: I don’t like electric cars because – to me – they are what a mannequin is to a real woman. But my writing about them focuses on their economical and practical fatuity and (because of this) the need to force them onto the market via mandates and prop them up via subsidies.

Battery swaps are a Rube Golberg solution to a problem that is already fixed. I can pump 15 gallons of fuel into my truck in 5 minutes and be good to go for a week of driving without having to fuel again. And even if I did, it’d be the same 5 minutes. Why are we even considering “alternatives” that entail much more expense and much more hassle?

Yes, I know. Because the “climate” is in “crisis” – another fatuity. (If it weren’t the threat to the climate presented by energy hog EVs designed for Ludicrous Speed would never be permitted … if they were a threat.)

Battery swappage would mean a hugely complex new infrastructure based on modular/interchangeable “skates” – common platforms, with same-size/same capacity batteries, regardless of the make or model of the car. It would mean the end of any automotive individuality… beyond color and exterior shape. Shoot me… please.

And then the cost of all this. Who will pay for it?

One way we’ll pay is in the currency of time.  Instead of that five minute fill-up once a week, multiple waits at the battery swap joint – which is going to take a lot longer than five minutes in the real world (as opposed to some delicately contrived “demonstration” done under ideal circumstances to one perfectly amenable test mule).

Finally: The 200 mile thing is another fatuity. It may be 200 miles… if you drive slowly. If it’s not too hot or too cold. If it is, then that 200 miles may be only 130 and realistically, once you’re down to 30 or so left, it is time to start sweating… because unlike a non-EV, if you “run it down to fumes” you will be stuck wherever you are for at least the 30-45 minutes it takes to “fast” charge the thing…

And they ask me why I drink!

. . .

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  1. Mike,
    I have read about a supposed breakthrough coming “soon” with solid batteries that hold more charge per unit of mass and could be recharged in the same time as a fill up. If this works it could be a game changer.
    Besides that I feel that PHEVs are the way to go. If we want to realistically reduce gas consumption (for whatever reason) I think this solution is the best of both worlds and I am saddend that the world seems to disagree. I drive a phev and I love it (full disclosure).

  2. It would be like those small propane tanks people use for bbq grills. You never just take the “beat to hell” tank from the rack and leave your good shape empty. Nope, you wait and get your good one refilled.

  3. Elon Musk demonstrated a battery swap to show that EVs could get back on the road quicker than ICEVs. Tesla never implemented it because: 1) they’d need a machine similar to the one in the factory that torqued all the battery bolts; 2) the machine would have to be installed somewhere; 3) billing issues; and 4) the battery pack that’s turned in may or may not be in the same condition as the new one. How would one do proper billing for this?

  4. ” I like them and want them to work just because.” Nothing like a person who can elaborate good reasons for a bias such as “just because”.


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