Research and/or Engineering Questions/Objective In the rising climate crisis, alternative technologies to decarbonize road transport are explored. For road-bound transport battery powered electric propulsion has developed to be the most promising technology. In particular for high mileage heavy duty vehicle applications range remains a major challenge, also due to high vehicle mass. Based on results from the eHaul project (funded by German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action) this study outlines a technological as well as economic approach to use fully automated battery swapping stations to provide quick range extension for battery powered heavy duty vehicles. Methodology The eHaul project consortium led by the Technical University of Berlin conceptualizes, develops, and realizes a fully operational prototype of the swapping system with an automated swapping station and two adapted battery electric semi tractors approved for public roads with a gross vehicle weight of up to 42t. This swapping system, first of its kind in Europe, is tested by two logistics partners for twelve consecutive months to obtain operational data from different temporal and business seasons. Accompanying, business models are developed to evolve, set up, and operate swapping stations. Different states in the scale-up of the technology are assessed from single point operation via small regional to international networks and compared to current diesel as well as other proposed emission free technologies. Results Preliminary results show that the proposed battery swapping system has relevant technological advantages in comparison to other emission free solutions, i.e. electric road systems, megawatt charging, or fuel cell electric vehicles. In particular beneficial are: modest grid connection requirements, high grid service potential, very fast recharging time for trucks, high technological readiness, very good connectivity to DC-microgrids and local renewable energy sources, very good scalability, high business potential and high resource efficiency. Major drawback is the requirement to standardize the traction battery or at least the vehicle to battery interface. Limitations Limitations of this study include the prototype status of the technology, the limited number (one) and size (800kWh) of stations in operation as well as the number of vehicles (two). The potential from a network perspective as well as for services for the electric grid can only be estimated. Interoperability between truck manufacturers cannot be addressed, as both trucks are of the same vehicle model. What is new This paper for the first time outlines the battery swapping technology and ecosystem developed in the eHaul project, gives insights into the operational challenges and opportunities of a battery swapping system and compares the economic feasibility to other emission free technologies. Conclusions Battery swapping addresses two major concerns regarding the electrification of heavy duty, high milage vehicle applications: flexibility and speed of energy supply to the vehicle system as well as infrastructure development for the electric grid. Moreover, the study shows that additional advantages can be achieved with battery swapping. Still, technical and political challenges need to be overcome to establish an economically feasible swapping infrastructure that can compete in the fast-developing environment of emission free freight transport. Worthwhile is a look into the Chinese market where battery swapping systems are at a much more mature state in the trucking sector as well as passenger car sector and continue to grow at above average rates compared to plug-in technologies.
Dr.-Ing. Jens-Olav Jerratsch, Researcher, Technische Universität Berlin / FVB