As Head of Strategy for SUN Mobility (SM), Yuvraj Sarda is charged with mapping out some of the essential plans for the India-based battery swapping company in areas spanning short-term tactics to investment opportunities.
His is a role key to the future of SUN Mobility, a company that many contend will prove pivotal to the overall viability and wider adaptation of electric vehicles in India and the rest of the world down the road.
To get a better understanding of how SM could potentially impact the future of EV battery technology, Ride decided to probe the company’s strategy a little deeper, prompting a conversation with Sarda, via email.
Yuvraj Sarda details some of the key elements of SUN Mobility’s EV battery systems. (Photo: Compiled from SUN Mobility images)
Q: SUN Mobility has emerged as one of the major companies poised to drive the future of swappable EV batteries, which could prove pivotal in helping to advance the overall ecosystem for new mobility on a global level. But what’s the real benefit of a swappable EV battery systems, in comparison to investing in more charging stations?
A: A country like India has diverse transportation needs. No one solution can fit all. Different applications require different EV solutions. Therefore, we see a coexistence of both-fixed battery charging & battery swapping solutions in the country.
But the mobility applications where vehicle utilization is high, routes are unpredictable, trips are unplanned and affordability for upfront cost is a challenge, battery swapping approach makes a lot of sense. These applications include two- & three-wheeler vehicles for intracity passenger and goods delivery, intra and intercity taxis, buses & trucks.
In this context, there are several advantages of battery swapping over conventional charging methods (regular or fast charging): low vehicle-upfront cost; range-anxiety alleviation; high asset-uptime: efficient EV-charging ecosystem; high throughput per square foot of real estate; lesser lithium requirement; and lowest TCO and higher revenue.
All these efficiencies (lower upfront cost, lesser battery requirement, longer life due to control and management, higher revenue due to higher uptime) result in economic benefits to the user and businesses operating swapping.
SUN Mobility’s broad span of swappable battery offerings is one of the biggest appeals of its systems. (Photo: SUN Mobility via Twitter)
Q: How has SUN Mobility addressed the major issues that have long been associated with swappable batteries — standardization, commercial viability and reliability?
A: SUN Mobility has innovated in both technology and business model to create a unique solution that is commercially viable, scalable and sustainable.
Standardization: (SM) has studied more than 100 small (2W and 3W) and several Ebus platforms to arrive at two standard battery packs – one (48V system) for all small EVs and other (650V system) for large platforms such as buses and trucks. These packs are integrated with platforms from 10 OEMs today. SM has created a plug-and-play battery vehicle integration kit (battery dock) to enable OEMs to quickly integrate these standard batteries into their vehicles in multiple ways. The battery pack is modular by design which allows OEMs to play around with power and range for the vehicle depending on mobility application (passenger vs goods; personal vs commercial), geography (small vs large city), etc. The batteries are smart and configurable to perform differently in different vehicles as per the software algorithm burnt in it.
Commercial Viability: By offering common batteries across 2- and 3-wheeler vehicle platforms from multiple OEMs, SM can achieve economies of scale of its infrastructure much faster. By choosing mobility applications with high asset utilization such as last-mile passenger transport, goods delivery and city-buses, SM is able to recover high investments in its EV technology. Using smaller battery with longer life (4 times the standard lithium battery), SM has created an efficient and cost-effective solution for the end user. SM’s Smart Network technologies optimizes the requirement of assets to serve the vehicle fleet across the city. By reusing the battery packs for energy storage after its end-of-life in mobility applications, SM is able to get the best value from its long-life batteries. These measures enable SM’s solution to become commercially viable for user and itself.
Reliability: SM has chosen a special long-life lithium-ion battery technology (4 times the standard lithium battery) at a slightly higher than the standard lithium-ion technology. SM has built in multiple levels of redundancy in its pack design based on its learnings in this domain. SM manages its batteries through advanced controls and has built-in advanced thermal management (air and liquid cooling for small and large QIS respectively) to ensure battery reliability and longevity. Also, batteries have 3 onboard computers and advanced telematics making them far more reliable than conventional EV batteries.
Q: How will SUN Mobility continue to differentiate itself as more companies look to develop swappable battery systems?
A: In this shared economy environment, SUN Mobility’s open-architecture energy infrastructure solution, comprising Smart Batteries, Quick Interchange Stations (QIS), Plug-n-Play docks, all connected via our Smart Network, creates a unique value and strong value proposition for the EV user. The current differentiated features of the solution are not very easy to replicate quickly.
Q: What are those key differentiators?
A: Advanced plug-n-play battery EV docks with interfaces that work across existing/retrofit vehicles as well as for new OEM platforms; smart batteries; the Quick Interchange Station (QIS) (and)
our Smart Network that monitors everything in real time and drives higher utilization (and) lower cost.
SUN Mobility’s Quick Interchange Stations anchor the company’s high-tech electric battery systems. (Photo: SUN Mobility)
Q: What are some of the unique characteristics of SMART Mobility’s swappable batteries that are seldom discussed?
A: They are modular, allowing flexibility in vehicle range – one, two or three battery packs can be packaged in the same vehicle basis the requirement; lighter – 1/3rd – 1/5th the size and weight of a standard battery in a typical; and ‘future-proof’ – due to modular architecture, batteries can be upgraded as the battery cell.
Q: How will SUN Mobility’s partnerships and research efforts help enhance the company’s efforts in the electric battery space?
A: SM has partnered with 10 OEMs and several fleet operators to integrate its solution with. SM has a 100-plus member strong R&D team which has filed around 9 patents and continue to innovate in the various aspects of our solution. We continue to beat our benchmarks and create new benchmarks for other players entering this space.
[Note: This Q&A has been condensed and edited for clarity.]