1 in 5 electric vehicle owners in California switched back to gas because charging their cars is a hassle, research shows

Mustang Mach E GT Performance Edition 03
Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition.

  • Roughly 20% of electric vehicle owners in California replaced their cars with gas ones, a recent study shows.
  • The main reason drivers made the switch was the inconvenience of charging.
  • The findings suggest new challenges facing the growth of the nascent electric vehicle market.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In roughly three minutes, you can fill the gas tank of a Ford Mustang and have enough range to go about 300 miles with its V8 engine.

But for the electric Mustang Mach-E, an hour plugged into a household outlet gave Bloomberg automotive analyst Kevin Tynan just three miles of range.

“Overnight, we’re looking at 36 miles of range,” he told Insider. “Before I gave it back to Ford, because I wanted to give it back full, I drove it to the office and plugged in at the charger we have there.”

Standard home outlets generally deliver 120 volts, powering what electric vehicle aficionados call “Level 1” charging, while the higher-powered specialty connections at 240 volts are known as “Level 2.” By comparison, Tesla’s “Superchargers,” which can fully charge its cars in a little over an hour, run on 480 volts.

That difference is night and day, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Energy by University of California Davis researchers Scott Hardman and Gil Tal that surveyed Californians who purchased an electric vehicle between 2012 and 2018.

Roughly one in five plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) owners switched back to owning gas-powered cars, in large part because charging the batteries was a pain in the… trunk, the researchers found.

Of those who switched, over 70% lacked access to Level 2 charging at home, and slightly fewer than that lacked Level 2 connections at their workplace.

“If you don’t have a Level 2, it’s almost impossible,” said Tynan, who has tested a wide range of makes and models of PEVs over the years for his research.

Even with the faster charging, a Chevy Bolt he tested still needed nearly six hours to top its range back up to 300 miles from nearly empty – something that takes him just minutes at the pump with his family SUV.

Public charging stations may look like the electric version of the gas station, but nearly two-thirds of PEV drivers in the survey said they didn’t use them. Exactly why they didn’t use the public stalls was not specified.

EVs have come a long way in recent years in terms of range, safety, comfort, and tech features, but Hardman and Tal note that very little has changed in terms of how they are recharged.

The researchers warned that this trend could make it harder to achieve electric vehicle sales targets in California and other countries, and the growth of the market overall.

“It should not be assumed that once a consumer purchases a PEV they will continue owning one,” Hardman and Tal wrote. “What is clear is that this could slow PEV market growth and make reaching 100% PEV sales more difficult.”

GM has set a target of an all-electric fleet by 2030, while Ford recently unveiled its “game changing” Lightning F-150 electric pickup truck and is prioritizing production of its electric Mustangs over its traditional gas ones. But Tynan says that fixing the charging issue will require even more active engagement from automakers.

“For all those legacy automakers, that profit and loss piece does matter. And that’s why you’re getting this half effort on electrification,” Tynan said.

Meanwhile, change is on the horizon. Tesla recently filed paperwork to open a drive-in restaurant at one of its LA supercharger stations (which takes 15 minutes to deliver an 80% charge), and 7-Eleven announced it will be installing 500 fast-charging connections at select convenience stores across North America.

Meanwhile, those initiatives are dwarfed by President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan, which would set aside $15 billion to build a national network of 500,000 stations.

But those are largely still plans, and it will be a while before EV ownership is just as convenient as gasoline currently is.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 7 best wireless phone chargers of 2021

  • The best wireless chargers provide a convenient way to charge your phone without the hassle of plugging in.
  • I’ve tested more than 40 wireless chargers over the past few years to find the best ones.
  • Our guide highlights chargers in different categories and suits various budgets.

To put it simply: no one likes charging their phone. Whether you’re chatting on a video call, reading the news, or listening to music during a run, there’s nothing like the panic that comes with seeing your battery dip below 20%.

Wireless chargers are a great way to power up your phone easily without fumbling with a power cord. In the early days, wireless chargers only offered slow speeds, were hampered by competing compatibility standards, and required precise placement in order to work. But as support for wireless charging has spread, especially after it became standard across the iPhone lineup in 2017, the technology has improved rapidly.

As an early adopter and tech reporter with more than a decade of experience, I’ve tested more than 40 different wireless chargers over the years, so I’m well placed to recommend the best picks to serve different needs. Later on in this guide, we breakdown things you should consider when shopping for a wireless charger.

Here are the best wireless chargers

The best wireless charger overall

Moshi_Otto_Q_Wireless_Charger

The Moshi Otto Q has a gray fabric design that looks good anywhere, it charges most phones at top speed, and it is sturdy.

Pros: Stylish look, non-slip, charges through cases

Cons: No adapter included, LED too bright for nightstand

With a smart design that combines style and function perfectly, the Moshi Otto Q is an excellent wireless charging pad. It supports fast wireless charging at up to 10W, which means it can charge up an iPhone and most Android phones at top speed.

Clever use of a metallic-looking silver plastic with a gray fabric cover helps this wireless charger stand out from the crowd in a good way. It looks at home on a wooden table, a nightstand, or a kitchen counter. 

The silicone ring on top both cushions your phone and prevents it from sliding off the charger. There’s also a rubbery pad on the underside that prevents it from slipping, even if you bump the table or nightstand that it’s on. Moshi supplies a USB-C to USB-A cable that’s 3 feet long in the box, but the manufacturer does suggest that you will need an adapter rated at Quick Charge 2.0 (9V/2A) minimum to get the maximum speed from it. This one from RAVPower should work.

I’ve been using it with a Samsung Adaptive Fast Charger, and it has been happily charging up a variety of phones, including an iPhone X and a Pixel 4.

The Moshi Otto Q has foreign object detection, so if any metal gets in between it and the phone it’s charging, it just turns off. You’ll want to make sure any case you use is metal-free, but thickness isn’t an issue. Moshi says it can charge through cases up to 5mm thick, and I’ve tested it with a variety, including some fairly thick protective cases, without any issues. Simply plug the USB-C cable into the back and plug the USB-A end into an adapter and you’re set. 

There’s a white LED at the front of the Moshi Otto Q that pulses gently while it’s charging and stays on when your phone is fully charged. Unfortunately, this light can be annoying in the bedroom when you’re trying to sleep, so the nightstand is not the best location for this wireless charger. I’ve placed mine on a side table in the dining room and it fits in nicely. 

My whole family has been using the Moshi Otto Q for a couple of years now and it’s still going strong, so I can wholeheartedly recommend it. The lack of an adapter in the box is a bit disappointing, but the style and quality build justify the price tag. Moshi also offers a 10-year warranty. 

The best fast-charging wireless charger

Anker PowerWave Alloy Pad charging a phone on a table

If you have a phone capable of charging at 15W or you want to future-proof, then the Anker PowerWave Alloy Pad is best for you.

Pros: Durable design, non-slip, long cable

Cons: No adapter included, LED too bright for nightstand

This compact metal puck blends into any room easily and feels built to last. It can fast charge most Qi-supporting Android phones and iPhones at the top speed they support, with four distinct charging modes designed to charge different smartphone models as quickly as possible.  

Anker is more focused on function than style and this sturdy, solid, weighty wireless charging pad has a silicone pad on the top and a silicone ring on the bottom to prevent any slippage. Pop your phone on the center of this pad and it will stay in place, even if a call comes in and it begins to vibrate. The only slight annoyance of the silicone is that it attracts dust and hairs. 

It comes with a relatively lengthy 5-foot cable, but you’ll need to provide your own power adapter. Cases are nothing to worry about because the Anker PowerWave Allow Pad can charge through cases up to 5mm thick. It also has safety features like temperature control and foreign object detection, and the alloy body helps it to stay cool in use.

The downside of the Anker PowerWave Alloy Pad, beyond the slightly dull design, is the presence of a blue LED at the front that lights up when it’s charging your phone. This light is likely to irritate you if you plan on using this wireless charger on the nightstand.

The best wireless charging stand

Best iPhone docks - Belkin BOOST UP Wireless Charging Stand

You can prop your phone up in landscape or portrait orientation while charging with the speedy Belkin BOOST UP Wireless Charging Stand.

Pros: Supports portrait or landscape, 4-foot power cord and adapter included, non-slip

Cons: Doesn’t fast charge some phones, quite large

Sometimes wireless charging stands are better than pads because they allow you to prop your phone up, making it easy to see incoming notifications or to check the time. The downside with stands is that they can be a little unstable and easy to accidentally knock your phone off.

The Belkin Boost UP Wireless Charging Stand has a smart design with a circular charging pad and a wide frame that makes it extremely stable. It’s also capable of charging your phone while it’s propped in landscape or portrait orientation and it can deliver up to 10W.

The Belkin BOOST UP comes in black or white plastic and has a wide frame with non-slip rubber padding on the bottom edges and on the surfaces where you rest your phone. The design makes it easy to position your phone correctly so that it charges.

Many stands claim to offer charging in portrait or landscape, but in practice, it can be tricky to find the right spot in landscape. With the Belkin BOOST UP, the angled circular pad makes it easy, and I’ve found it works reliably with an iPhone X and Pixel 4.

Another advantage with the Belkin BOOST UP is that it comes with a cable and adapter. My version has a barrel connector and the cable is permanently attached to the adapter you plug into the wall. There is another version of this wireless charger that comes with a separate cable and adapter. Either way, it’s nice to have the correct adapter included. 

It can charge through cases up to 3mm thick. There are also two pinprick LEDs in different positions, so that one is always visible whichever way you place your phone to charge. They light up white when charging and turn orange if there’s a problem, like keys or another metal object being stuck on the pad. It also has overheating protection built in for peace of mind.

If you have an iPhone, the Belkin BOOST UP can charge at the top speed of 7.5W, and it can hit 9W for Samsung phones, but for every other device, including Google’s Pixel phones it is capped at 5W. This isn’t a problem if you use it for overnight charging, and I think the light is small enough here that the Belkin BOOST UP is a good choice for the nightstand. It usually costs $50.

The best luxurious wireless charger

Bezalel_Altair_Wireless_Charger

A classy aluminum body with suede padding makes the Bezalel Altair a great looking, sturdy wireless charging stand for your phone.

Pros: Looks great, very stable, charges through cases

Cons: No adapter included, expensive

If you want a wireless charger that’s solid and sturdy with good looks, whether there’s a phone on it or not, then the Bezalel Altair is worth considering. It can deliver up to 10W of power, so it will charge iPhones and many Android phones at their maximum wireless charging speed. Carved from a single piece of aluminum, it’s strong and it looks great. 

There are two rubber pegs that stick out to prop your phone on, and there’s a white LED just beneath them. A suede pad, with a relatively subtle logo, allows you to rest your phone safely on the stand while it charges. A solid rubber base prevents it from sliding around on the desktop. Bezalel also provides a 3-foot, flat, non-tangle, USB-C to USB-A cable in the box. You’ll have to buy your own adapter and you’ll want one that’s rated at QC 2.0 or higher, like this one from RAVPower.

One of the nice things about the design is that you can prop your phone in landscape or portrait orientation, and it will charge. It’s also the perfect angle to have on your desk for face unlock and for video calls. I have it on my desk and use it with my Pixel 4 every day. It’s not capable of charging the Pixel at top speed, but the style and utility make up for that. If you’re ever in a rush and want to charge up via cable, the peg design allows easy access to the charging port on your phone, so you can prop your phone in portrait and plug in a charging cable.

It can charge through cases up to 5mm thick, but one downside here is that it doesn’t automatically detect foreign objects between the phone and charger and shut itself off like many wireless chargers do. Because it’s angled, this is less likely to be an issue than with a pad, but it’s worth noting. 

Sadly, the white LED stays lit all the time when this charger is plugged in or charging, so it’s not suitable for the nightstand if light is going to bother you. I think this style is better suited to a desk anyway. If you like the look of it, you can expect to pay $65.

The best wireless charger for travel

Fuse_Chicken_Universal

The multi-talented Fuse Chicken Universal All-in-One World Travel Charger is a battery pack, travel adapter, and wireless charger all at once, so it’s perfect for jet-setters.

Pros: Clever multi-functional design, great for travel, compact

Cons: Expensive, bulky at outlet, power button required to turn on USB charging

The Fuse Chicken Universal All-in-One World Travel Charger makes it easy to charge your phone in a variety of ways while you travel. It’s a battery pack, a wireless charger, and a travel adapter all wrapped into one portable device that’s about the same size as a MacBook power adapter.

Set your phone down on the charger, and it acts like a quick-charging 10-watt wireless charger, but if you’re on the move, you can also plug in a cable to use it as a battery pack. The 6,700mAh battery inside the charger is enough to fully charge most phones, though you’ll find you can squeeze a little more from it if you plug in, rather than use the wireless charging function. 

I was able to fully charge a Pixel 4 with change using the USB-C port. It can deliver up to 18W, which is enough to charge an iPhone or Pixel at top speed. As a wireless charger, you can expect a fair bit less, because wireless charging is less efficient. Luckily, you can see how much battery life is left in the internal battery by pressing the power button. The percentage remaining will display on the tiny LED screen.

When it comes time to plug in the charger and re-juice the internal battery, you can plug it right into a regular wall outlet. If you’re not in the US, and you happen to be traveling to the EU, UK, or Australia, Fuse Chicken has you covered with travel adapters for all those countries. Simply slide on the adapter you need, again, much like a MacBook power adapter. A small bag comes with the charger, so you have a place to safely store those adapters.

The USB-C port can also charge the battery up if you can’t plug it in for some reason. It is a bit bulky, which can sometimes be a problem with some outlets or power strips. There’s also a USB-A port that’s capable of delivering 12W, so you can plug your phone’s charging cable and juice up your device that way if you prefer. You can use both ports at the same time to charge multiple devices at once, should you need to. 

Downsides include the fact that you can’t use the wireless charging function when it’s plugged in, because it plugs in vertically. You also must press the power button sometimes when plugging in a cable or it won’t start charging your device. Sadly, it can’t charge a USB-C laptop like the MacBook, but you can charge any phone, tablet, ereader, or accessories like headphones with it.

This travel friendly, all-in-one wireless charger is also very expensive. However, if you travel to those countries a lot, it’s worth it.

The best wireless charger for multiple phones

Unravel_Wireless_Charger

If you want to wirelessly charge up to three devices simultaneously, the clever Unravel Wireless Charger is the only one of its kind.

Pros: Clever fold-up design, wirelessly charges three devices at once, extra USB-C port

Cons: Expensive, looks a bit cheap

Whether Apple will ever revive its AirPower wireless charging mat, which was going to be capable of charging your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods all at once, remains to be seen, but there are alternatives. The Unravel Wireless Charger offers three wireless charging pads linked together with hinges. 

There are two versions of the Unravel; there’s the Unravel AW+ and the Unravel 3+1. The Unravel AW+ has two wireless charging pads that can deliver up to 10W for phones, AirPods, or another Qi device, and a third pad that’s specially designed to charge an Apple Watch. The AW+ is obviously ideal for Apple fans. The Unravel 3+1 has three wireless charging pads offering up to 10W each, and it also has a second USB-C port that can be used to charge up a fourth device.

Both versions can fold up concertina style to stow neatly away for travel. You get a 30W charger in the box and a cable. Apart from the fact it folds up nicely, travel utility is expanded when you consider that you can potentially use the same USB-C Power Delivery (PD) charger as your MacBook to power this wireless charger. However, it’s important to note that you’ll need a 60W charger if you want to get the fastest possible charging rate from all three pads at once. 

The clever design features don’t end there. You can also configure the Unravel into a triangular shape, fold out a small perch to prop your phone in landscape orientation, and watch a movie while it charges. There are black and red versions, but I recommend the glow-in-the-dark model because it gives off just enough of a glow for you to position your phone on it in the dark, but not so much that it interrupts your shuteye. 

While I’m a big fan of the Unravel, it’s not perfect. Finished in soft-touch plastic, this isn’t the kind of charger that’s going to subtly blend in with your décor. There are pinprick lights that turn on when it’s charging, but most phones cover them, so they seem redundant. The fold-out perch for propping your phone in landscape orientation also feels quite flimsy. 

Still, this versatile wireless charger is ideal for busy families or people with multiple devices to pop on the charger at night. It’s also a useful companion for travel if a single pad isn’t going to meet your needs. Both versions of the Unravel are typically the same price, but read the descriptions to make sure you get the right one for you. The manufacturer, Ampere, also offers versions with world plug sets and different chargers on its website.

The best wireless charger for Apple devices

Belkin_BOOST_CHARGE_3 in 1

If you want to charge up your Apple Watch and AirPods alongside your iPhone, then this special edition of Belkin’s Boost Charge 3-in-1 charger is for you.

Pros: Can simultaneously charge three devices, 4.5-foot power cord and adapter included, attractive design, non-slip

Cons: Expensive, large

This elegant wireless charging station from Belkin can wirelessly charge your iPhone at the current top rate of 7.5W, but it also has a magnetic Apple Watch dock built in, and there’s a wireless charging pad for your AirPods or AirPods Pro. The ability to charge all three of your Apple devices simultaneously from a single outlet makes this accessory an ideal pick for placing on a nightstand or desk.

With a glossy plastic finish in black or white, this Belkin charger has a slightly futuristic feel. The base is solid and wide to aid stability, and there’s a soft rubbery covering on the bottom that ensures it stays put. The round charger for the iPhone is angled, extending up on a shiny stainless steel pole, and there’s a curved lip to guide your placement and keep the iPhone in place. 

The magnetic Apple Watch charger is built-in and sits at a 90-degree angle, which is perfect for Nightstand mode. The circular pad behind the Apple Watch charger provides a spot for your AirPods. The included AC adapter has a permanently attached cable and slots into the back neatly with a barrel connector. The cable has an ample 4.5-foot length, and the adapter provides enough power to charge your three devices at top speed.

Two, tiny, pin-sized LEDs light up white when an iPhone or AirPods are charging and turn amber if there’s a problem with alignment or something has snuck in underneath your device. Thankfully, they are low-key and shouldn’t disturb your slumber if you decide to use this charger on the nightstand. The iPhone pad can also handle cases up to 3mm thick, so you don’t have to worry about removing your case to charge. 

I’ve been testing this charger with an iPhone X and an Apple Watch Series 5, and it has won a permanent place on the nightstand. If you like to use Nightstand mode and set alarms on your Apple Watch, then this charger is especially good. I’d prefer it didn’t have the LEDs, but at least they are tiny.

The catch is that the Belkin Boost Charge 3-in-1 Special Edition for Apple Devices is expensive. It’s a hefty investment, but I appreciate the fact that everything is included, and the Apple Watch charger is built-in, so all you need to do to get going with this is plug it into the wall. There is a cheaper version with similar functionality for a bit less, but it lacks classy touches like the stainless steel.

What else we considered

Wireless_Chargers_Also_Considered

There are so many good wireless chargers available that it’s impossible to cover them all. These are the wireless chargers that came closest to making the list, and they are all decent alternatives if you don’t like what you’ve seen so far.

  • Nomad Base Station Pro: With cutting edge technology inside, this wireless charger doesn’t require careful placement of devices. Stick your phone down anywhere on the surface and it will charge. It has space and power enough for two phones and a set of AirPods to charge together. It’s also beautifully crafted from aluminum with leather padding on top and comes with a braided cable and wall charger. The only reason it fails to make the list is the high price. Read our Nomad Base Station Pro review to learn more.
  • AirUnleashed: This large wireless charging pad is designed to emulate Apple’s ill-fated AirPower charger and has space for an iPhone, an Apple Watch, and AirPods. It has a minimal design in black or white with a soft touch finish. Sadly, there’s no AC adapter included, it requires precise placement, and you must remove some Apple Watch bands to charge. I found it too easy to accidentally bump my iPhone off the sweet spot, and after testing for a few weeks this charger is starting to look shabby. 
  • OtterBox OtterSpot: Bringing some genuine innovation to the table, OtterBox’s wireless charging system starts with a simple round base charger that looks much like any other. What sets it apart is the fact you can put a battery pad with a 5,000mAh capacity on top; it can charge wirelessly, and it can serve as a wireless charger for your phone. You can even stack additional batteries to charge them all up at once, and then take them with you when you leave. The entry price gets you one base charger and one battery, but this system can get pricey fast.
  • RAVPower Wireless Charging Stand: After a year’s service, this unobtrusive black stand still works perfectly and can deliver up to 10W. It is Qi certified, has temperature controls to prevent overheating, and sports an LED that blinks green when everything is working and red when there’s a problem. It only just misses out on a place above. 
  • Google Pixel Stand: Capable of wirelessly charging your Pixel 4, 4 XL, 3, or 3 XL at top speed, the Pixel Stand also supports some interesting Google Assistant features. Use your Pixel as an alarm clock, get your daily schedule, or turn your Pixel into a digital photo frame. This will charge any Qi device, but it’s only worth paying this much if you have a Pixel phone that can take advantage of the special features. 
  • Mophie Charge Stream Pad+: With a dull, but practical design that includes a rubbery, non-slip finish, and a white LED light, this wireless charger can deliver up to 10W. It also comes with a 5-foot cable and a QC 2.0 adapter. It charges most phones at top speed, but can’t charge through bulky cases. No major complaints about the functionality, but there simply isn’t enough here to justify the high price. 
  • Satechi Wireless Charger: The chamfered aluminum frame is smart, and there’s a silicone cross in the middle of the shiny top surface to cushion your phone. Sadly, charging is slow at 5W, there’s no adapter in the box, and the LED is far too bright to use on the nightstand. 
  • Twelve South HiRise: With a clever design that includes a weighted leather base, with a pop-out puck that you can take with you for wireless charging on the go, the Twelve South HiRise is unusual. It can deliver up to 10W, but can’t deal with thicker cases and ships without an adapter, making the price tough to swallow. 
  • Courant Wireless Chargers: These fancy leather-clad 10W wireless chargers make nice gifts, but they are too expensive to recommend over our other picks — especially as the basic Catch:1 wireless chargers don’t come with outlet adapters. The Catch:2 and Catch:3 do come with adapters, but cost $120 and $140, respectively when they’re on sale.

How to choose a wireless charger

The wireless charger landscape has evolved in the last few years, with new features, faster charging speeds, and a range of different shapes and styles. To make sure your chosen charger is going to meet your expectations, it’s important to pose a few questions before you shop. 

What device or devices do you want to charge?

Make sure that your smartphone — or other device — supports Qi wireless charging. Every entry on our list is a Qi wireless charger. Many Android phone manufacturers, like Samsung, have included wireless charging support in their flagship phones for years now. Apple introduced wireless charging support with the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and iPhone X, and every iPhone since then has supported it.

Don’t assume your phone supports it, though, take the time to check. A few manufacturers still haven’t adopted wireless charging, and it’s less common in mid-range and budget devices.

What is the top speed your device can charge at?

At first, wireless chargers were capped at 5W, but you can get 10W or even 15W chargers now. However, the speed you can wirelessly charge your phone at is set by the manufacturer. At the time of writing, for example, the iPhone 12 Pro tops out at 7.5W (or 15W through Apple’s MagSafe charger), Google’s Pixel 5 can charge at 12W, and Samsung’s Galaxy S20 can charge at up to 15W.

Do you need a charging cable and adapter?

Many wireless chargers are sold without a wall adapter, though they generally include a cable. It’s important to make sure that you have the right cable and adapter to enable the top charging speed. If you use a 5W adapter with a 10W charging pad, for example, you’re only going to get 5W charging. Apple also no longer includes a power adapter in the box with its new iPhones, so you’ll want to make sure you have the proper adapter handy if you’re planning on buying a new phone. 

Where are you going to use it?

The nightstand will be the ideal location for some, but you may prefer to have a wireless charger on your desk at work, on the kitchen counter at home, or perhaps all three. Different kinds of chargers will work better in different locations. For example, if it’s for the nightstand, you probably don’t want a wireless charger with a bright flashing light. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

You could soon charge an electric car in the time it takes to fill a tank of gas thanks to a startup partnering with Uber

Ample founders Khaled Hassounah and John de Souza stand in front of a battery swapping station.
Founders Khaled Hassounah and John de Souza stand in front of a battery swapping station.

  • Ample launched a charging network for Uber’s fleet in San Francisco.
  • The startup uses battery swapping technology to charge electric cars faster.
  • The company plans to deploy the network in multiple cities for consumers within the next few years.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Ample, a startup based out of San Francisco, has launched a charging network that can recharge an electric car in under 10 minutes. The company came out of stealth mode on Wednesday.

The company started the initiative through a partnership with Uber and is funded by over $70 million from private investors. The network currently charges Uber’s fleet of cars in San Francisco and is expected to hit the general market within a couple of years.

Ample has already deployed two stations that are in full use in San Francisco for Uber’s fleet and is working on deploying more stations in several other major cities in California. The startup hopes to ease much of the range-bound anxiety of driving an electric car by making charging stations as fast and readily available as gas stations.

Ample uses the world’s first modular battery-swapping system. The company’s CEO, Khaled Hassounah, says the modular battery swapping system operates like “Lego blocks.” The size of the car determines how many battery modules the car needs and the modules can adapt to fit any vehicle.

Unlike typical charging stations – which require the electric car to be plugged in and can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 12 hours – Ample’s charging stations remove the car’s batteries and replaces them with freshly charged ones. The depleted batteries are then placed on shelves at the station where they are recharged for future use.

The system is also entirely autonomous. Customers will pay using an app system and don’t even need to get out of the car to charge the electric vehicle, according to Hassounah. The station automatically detects the vehicle and goes to work.

 

Ample’s President John de Souza said the goal of the company is to make electric cars as accessible as possible. For many drivers, the decision to transition from a combustion engine to an electric car is not feasible due to the nuisance of long charging times and cars that cannot travel long distances without stopping to get recharged.

“Electric cars shouldn’t have to be subsidized by the government or come at a huge personal cost,” de Souza told Insider. “It has to be more convenient than gas so it becomes a no-brainer for people to say, ‘Why wouldn’t I switch?”

The startup charges Uber fleet drivers per mile and offers its services for 10-20% less than the cost of gas. Hassounah said the battery’s modular system allows the process to be simpler and ultimately cheaper.  The entire set up also contributes to a cheaper price, as it can be constructed easily in a parking lot.

“We could deploy a whole city in a matter of weeks,” Hassounah told Insider.

The autonomous battery swapping stations can be easily put together or taken down as they come in their own structures that can be put together quickly in several large sections.

Battery swapping could increase the life span of an electric car

The swapped batteries will use the longest range technology available for each car to give drivers as many miles as possible between recharges. 

Hassounah said the swapping system would also contribute to the longevity of the vehicle, as the car would no longer be constrained by a dying battery, but would be continually receiving the newest battery chemistries.

Most EV batteries are insured for at least 100,000 miles, but lithium-ion batteries often get shorter and shorter ranges as they go. A new electric car battery costs several thousands of dollars, for example a Nissan Leaf battery replacement costs about $5,500, while a Chevy Bolt replacement costs over $16,000, according to Car and Driver.  Both cars have around a 250 mile range.

 The company is not the first to employ battery swapping technology and it faces competition from at least six startups with similar strategies. In China – the leader in the electric car industry – the practice is much more common. Chinese manufacturer Nio has largely found success with the process in China.

Companies have struggled with the technology in the past

In 2013, Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed off battery swapping technology, only to reject the technology two years later in favor of focusing on the company’s Supercharging stations. Musk called the technology “too expensive.”

Another startup based out of Israel, Better Place, also invested in battery swapping technology. Investors in the company lost over $850 million as the idea fell flat.

The company was unable to find automakers willing to manufacture vehicles with its technology and it was not financially sustainable to make enough different kinds of batteries to fit each type of electric car in the market.

Hassounah said Ample has learned from Better Place’s mistakes. The company’s modular battery is cheaper than Tesla’s attempt and can fit any car unlike Better Place’s battery swapping method. Ample is also in the process of working with five major automakers, according to Hassounah.

The company is also approaching charging stations differently. Ample plans to use renewable energy sources to recharge the batteries. The company captures wind and solar energy when available and delivers it to the cars when needed.

“Moving to electric but still burning fossil fuels is not solving the problem,” Hassounah told Insider.  “We save the absorbed energy, for peak times and plan to charge the vast majority if not all of it with renewable energy without increasing the cost.”

Ultimately, Hassounah said the company hopes to help get one billion electric cars on the road.

“It’s not battery swapping versus charging,” Hassounah told Insider. “We need all of the solutions. We are all aligned in finding different ways to solve the problem and modular battery swapping is just another way to solve the larger problem.”

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