With electric vehicle sales constantly growing, and the decline of fossil fuel-powered vehicles, many are worried about the charging infrastructure currently available. Despite the Government pledging to improve the public network of EV charging stations, there’s still a long way to go.
Especially as roughly 40% of households in the UK do not have access to a driveway or off-street parking. This figure rises even further in busy cities such as London, Birmingham and Manchester. While it is possible to charge an electric vehicle without off-street parking, it does make it more challenging.
Motorists can continue to park their EVs in their usual spaces and charge them overnight. This may just involve draping long, heavy cables from your house to your vehicle. This isn’t the safest way to charge an electric vehicle, but you are able to do it when necessary.
Otherwise, drivers will be reliant on charging an electric vehicle on the go with the public network. There are now over 31,000 public electric vehicle charge points available across the UK. This means that there aren’t many journeys where EV drivers would struggle to charge. Plus, tools like ZapMap make it easy for motorists to plan their journeys to incorporate charging en route.
Today, we wanted to run through some new technologies which could change the future of driving and charging an electric vehicle forever.
NIO’s battery swapping
One technology that we’ve spoken about previously comes from Chinese luxury brand, NIO. The EV manufacturer currently only operates within China and Norway, but aims to be targeting 25 countries by 2025.
Battery swapping is a new technology which allows for an electric vehicle’s depleted battery to be removed and replaced with a fully charged one. It really is as simple as that. Drivers can simply search for a charging location on their NIO vehicles infotainment system and book themselves in when their battery is low.
When you arrive at the battery swapping station, you simply drive in and wait for the battery to be removed by a collection of robotics. The swap takes roughly five minutes on average to complete.
This kind of technology actually makes charging an EV comparable with filling up at a fuel station. Plus, all batteries are put through a diagnostics test and are then recharged once removed. This means drivers know the battery being put into their EV is always up to date and has no issues.
These stations are capable of charging over 200 batteries per day and NIO has recently opened their 900th station. Considering their 700th station only opened in December 2021, NIO isn’t messing around with launching this technology.
How well does battery swapping work in practice?
Of course, the biggest benefit to this is the time it takes. The fact that it only takes roughly five minutes to have a fully charged vehicle is incredible. Even on the fastest chargers, UK drivers would still be waiting at least 20 minutes for their EV to charge.
With that being said, there are a couple of downsides. The first one being that this kind of technology is exclusive to NIO at the moment. This means you couldn’t drive in there with your Tesla and expect the battery to be changed. All of NIO’s electric vehicles have a universal battery, which means they can be swapped between cars. Unfortunately, the rest of the EV world doesn’t work like that.
It’s important at this point in time to find universal solutions to EV charging. Tesla previously announced that they would be opening up their Supercharger network to all electric vehicles from 2022. However, this is currently not available in the UK. If this were to become available to UK drivers, this would massively increase the reliability of charging an electric vehicle while on the go.
Not necessarily a bad thing, but NIO’s charging scheme does mean EV drivers would have to lease the battery within their electric vehicle. This involves paying a monthly fee to NIO which would allow you to use their battery swapping stations. If this kind of technology did come to the UK, it would be important that drivers weigh up what works best for them.
Likewise, we’re not entirely sure if this kind of technology would be worth it in the long run. Sure, a lot of EV drivers would benefit from such quick charging technology right now. But, we don’t think this would be viable long term.
Wirelessly charging an electric vehicle
The next piece of technology, we believe, could actually be life changing for those charging an electric vehicle that is always on the go. Designed, produced and installed by USA brand Momentum Dynamics, wireless EV charging could be the answer to all of our problems.
It is as simple as it sounds. Momentum Dynamics have created EV charging pads that can be installed anywhere. Now, at the moment, because this isn’t a normal source of charging, EVs do need to be modified to be able to use these charging pads. Simply, this involves placing a receiver pad with a copper wire underneath the vehicle.
When this is fitted, an electric vehicle can literally just drive into the space where the charging pad is and charge. Plus, they charge up to 450kW, depending on how quickly your EV can charge. When you’re finished charging, you simply drive away.
Momentum Dynamics have already tried and tested these throughout the USA and they can even put up with tougher climates. Being fitted in areas susceptible to snow, these charging pads still work! Even with 10cm of ice over the top of the charging pad, they still charge at their full capacity.
So how well do they work?
Now, our first thoughts on this technology were pretty poor. Who needs a wireless EV charger? It’s the same as having a wireless phone charger. Nice to have, but not essential – and not really changing the way we charge an electric vehicle.
But, seeing this technology in practice really makes sense. The implication to this kind of technology is incredible. For vehicles that are always on the go, such as buses, ambulances and police vehicles, this could be world-leading. With some well thought out charging pads placed outside of a bus/police station or hospital, these kinds of services could run off of electric motoring.
At the moment, there’s a lot of worries for emergency services as to how, when and where they would charge an EV. But, these could work brilliantly. This kind of charging technology would also mean EVs could have smaller batteries in them to begin with, which would significantly reduce the cost of buying an electric car.
It would also free up space within big cities where charging stations would be. If you imagine a world without fuel or charging stations, we’d have a lot of free (hopefully green) space. But, there is one negative point. These wouldn’t work great for the daily population, unfortunately. Unless we planned to have electric charging pads on every piece of road, it would be impossible to charge on the go.
For those driving on a loop, or to the same location everyday, these would work wonderfully. But for spontaneous charging, they wouldn’t be great.
EV charging solutions for the future
It seems neither of these charging technologies would be exactly right, but then again, we might need more than one solution. As we move away from traditional fuel stations, there could be a number of different charging solutions to see EVs succeed. It’s vital that these solutions are compatible with all, if not a majority, of electric vehicles on the UK market.
For now, we’ll have to trust the Government’s decision to fast track public charge points and see how the situation changes!
* All information correct as of 16/05/22.