ECOSWAP – A Swappable Battery Ecosystem to Accelerate Fast Charging and Boost Sustainable Motorbikes
The virtual kick-off for the e-mobility project ECOSWAP, co-funded by EIT Urban Mobility, an initiative of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) a body of the European Union, took place on 31 January. Even though electric motorbikes have shown to be a sustainable and agile vehicle in urban spaces, they still face some barriers that prevent their breakthrough in the market. Therefore, this initiative intends to overcome two of their main obstacles: high initial price and lack of fast charging. The ECOSWAP consortium will develop a swap-and-go battery ecosystem that together with the new associated business models will establish the electric motorbike as a competitive urban mean of transportation.
In 2022, an ECOSWAP network is planned to be implemented in Barcelona, one of the traditionally more motorbike-friendly cities of Europe. In this test, both private and subscription users will be able to quickly swap their empty batteries in several motorbike dealerships, workshops, and BSM parking lots. Next year, the lessons learned in Barcelona will help to improve the service and it is planned to add two new cities to the pilot: Sant Boi de Llobregat (Barcelona Metropolitan Area) and the Italian city of Verona. New locations for the swapping points like local shops will also be studied, as this service can help them boost their small businesses.
Concern about Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles emissions keeps growing every day and the efficient and sustainable electrification of our vehicle fleet is a priority. In the whole EU, a considerable part of this fleet consists of petrol-based motorbikes, with only a small fraction of its 30 million powered two-wheelers being electric. Drawbacks for electrification are nothing new: high initial investment to purchase the vehicle, even though electricity can be cheaper than petrol in the long term; and inconvenient time-consuming charging times that require planning trips in advance. Fortunately, small vehicles like motorbikes have been developed with an extractable battery, which is charged externally without the need of plugging the vehicle directly.
This project aims to solve these two downsides of e-mobility through the deployment of a network of battery cabinets where the user will be able to swap a depleted battery for a fully charged one, mimicking the fast refuel dynamics of conventional motorbikes. Moreover, this ecosystem incentivises a new ownership model in which the user can buy their motorbike without the battery, significantly lowering the initial cost, and just leasing the battery afterwards. Finally, the network will also help motosharing operators who will be able to recharge their batteries nearer and quicker.
The consortium, led by SEAT MÓ, is composed of industry manufacturers SILENCE, IDNEO, and FICOSA, as well as local entities and institutions Barcelona de Serveis Municipals (BSM), Àrea Metropolitana de Barcelona, the cities of Barcelona, Sant Boi de Llobregat, and Verona, and the urban mobility research hub CARNET, in charge of implementing the first pilot, in Barcelona.