A small fleet of rideshare Fiat 500e electric vehicles will become testbeds for battery-swap technology in 2024. The experiment is being conducted by Ample, a startup working on battery swaps, and Stellantis, Fiat’s parent company, the Verge reported today.
This isn’t Ample’s first test of its battery-swapping technology; in 2021 it started a small trial in the Bay Area to demo its modular battery, which replaces the existing traction battery in an EV and allows Ample’s automated swap stations to switch out depleted packs for charged ones. But the fact that this deal was made with an OEM like Stellantis is still significant.
As we detailed last time we looked at Ample’s technology, the EVs require some engineering work for this to all be possible. Ample has to design a structural frame to replace the existing battery pack that will instead contain the swappable modules, while still conforming to the engineering requirements of the original pack—down to the same fasteners, bolts, and connectors.
The startup has also developed a standardized battery swap station that can operate on a relatively tiny footprint. The stations don’t need the same hefty electrical connections required of an ultra-high speed DC charger, as each station charges a few battery modules at a constant (and less powerful) rate.
Ample’s model involves the startup owning the actual battery modules—this solves the problem of an EV owner having their own brand-new pack replaced by an older and possibly degraded one. This is also assuming that Ample’s tech comes to privately owned EVs and not just fleets, that is. The test, scheduled to begin next year in Madrid, will involve Fiat 500es that are operated by Free2Move, Stellantis’ car-sharing mobility venture.