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India EV battery swapping policy unlikely to gain widespread traction

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Jeff Tyson

India announced it will implement a new policy for electric vehicle battery swapping to encourage the sale of EVs. Swapping out a depleted battery for a fresh one is faster than the required charging time.

Arthur Wheaton

Director of Labor Studies, ILR School

Arthur Wheaton, an expert on the automotive industry and director of labor studies at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, says the Indian government will need a heavy hand for battery swapping to work, and that the concept isn’t likely to work beyond limited situations – in part because major car companies don’t share battery technology.

Wheaton says:

“There are a great many barriers in India in the automotive sector. Many companies have tried and failed to solve the affordability and scale problems in the country. The battery swapping idea is interesting but is not likely to work without a great deal of government involvement and policy.

“Major car companies do not share the technology around batteries (or any technology) and the interchangeable batteries would mean lots of redundant batteries sitting around the country to be effective. There are very few products in the automobile that are consistent across brands. The cigarette lighter power supply (plug for GPS) and the valve stem for tires are about the only ones that can be mixed and matched across any brand.

“Getting all of the car companies to voluntarily use the same battery design and technology would have to be government mandated. It is very expensive for battery packs and limited supply of lithium and cobalt to waste sitting in gas stations across the country. It could be an experiment in limited situations but not likely to work without a heavy-handed government mandate and subsidy.”

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