There are a lot of different companies that have been trying for years to capitalize on the idea of using electric cars as opposed to traditional automobiles. It's easy to understand why. Cars with internal combustion engines are one of the biggest problems associated with global warming, pollution and even political issues that center around accessibility to oil and gas. That said, most companies that have dabbled in the electric vehicle, or EV market in the past have not succeeded. One company is attempting to make it easier to not only charge batteries, but swap them in their entirety. That company is called Ample and the individuals in charge of its operation are convinced that they have what it takes to allow it to be successful even in the face of the failure of similar corporations. If you want to know more about them, consider reading through this list in order to find out 20 things that make them unique.
1. The company has continued its research throughout its eight year history
The company has been in business for eight years. Throughout that entire time, they have been consistent about doing research that will allow them to approach the EV market in a way that is completely different. It's easy to understand why research is so important here. Other companies similar to Ample have tried to create charging stations in the past, only to come up woefully short. Granted, those companies were trying to create something when there were very few electric vehicles operating on the road. The market is more likely to support such charging stations at this point in time, but it will still be years before they outnumber gas stations.
2. Their success depends on the availability of specially designed pods
The company has their success riding on their ability to build a number of specially-designed pods. These pods allow drivers to pull into a special area that facilitates the removal of one battery and the installation of another. Without the availability of the pods, it would be impossible for the company to continue with its mission.
3. The pods are operated automatically
One of the more unique things about these pods is that they are fully automated. As opposed to having a human being staff the pods, the entire system is operated with robotics. That allows the pods to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The end result is that drivers have better access to the pods regardless of the time of day in question.
4. Batteries can currently be swapped out in about 10 minutes
Currently, it takes about 10 minutes for a battery to be swapped out. Even one of the very first tests of this system allowed drivers to swap out batteries in roughly 15 minutes. That's far superior to the two or even three hours that are typically required to fully charge a battery.
5. They are working to cut that time in half
Despite the fact that they are currently able to swap out batteries in about 10 minutes, they are working to cut that time down to 5 minutes. The faster that they're able to swap batteries, the more cars they are able to accommodate with the pods. As more and more electric vehicles start taking to the road, the ability to swap batteries in 5 minutes or less will become far more important.
6. Their goal is to create an entirely new infrastructure
Currently, they only have a handful of charging stations, but all that is likely to change as they add to their infrastructure. At the moment, there are only about five stations operating, all of them in the San Francisco area. However, it is important to remember that Ample is still in the testing phases with their pods. As they become more adept at dealing with the special challenges involved in this market, more pods will likely be incorporated across the country. This is especially true in areas where there are more electric vehicles operating, such as in major cities.
7. Currently, they are working almost exclusively with rideshare services
Ample has already partnered with Uber in order to swap batteries on its entire fleet of vehicles in the San Francisco area. The idea is that they will continue this partnership as Ample expands to other cities. This lines up with Uber's goals as well, as the company wants to operate a fleet of entirely electric vehicles within the next several years.
8. The eventual goal is to allow all consumers to use their pods
While they're currently working almost exclusively with Uber, that won't always be the case. Eventually, Ample wants to allow individual drivers the opportunity to swap batteries out using their pods. There are a few things related to infrastructure and logistics that have to be worked out first, but this is definitely the end goal.
9. They have a goal of becoming the gas stations of the future
In fact, Ample has gone as far as saying that they want to become the gas stations of the future. Once that happens, drivers would be able to stop and have a battery swapped at one of Ample’s pods in exactly the same manner that they currently stop and refill their vehicles with gasoline. The difference is that where the pods are concerned, there is no need to worry about the health of the environment as a direct result of operating the vehicle.
10. The pods can recharge batteries after they have been swapped
The pods are fully automated, as previously mentioned. In addition to swapping a depleted battery out for a freshly charged one, it is also possible to fully charge the depleted battery after the fact. One of the issues that people have commented on with electric vehicles is that it takes several hours to fully charge a battery. For many individuals, this isn't a problem but for others, it's almost impossible. The pods are designed to both swap the batteries and then charge them fully after the fact, thereby making them available for the next vehicle that comes through.
11. It’s also possible to have defective batteries sent back to the manufacturer
Another possible benefit to using the pods involves the ability to send batteries back to the manufacturer when they have become fully depleted and cannot be recharged. The same applies for batteries that are defective or that have gone past their projected service life. This saves drivers time because they are no longer forced to find a manufacturer's facility that accepts the battery in question. Instead, everything is handled by Ample.
12. Eventually, new technology may be offered as new batteries become available
Undoubtedly, battery technology will eventually change as electric vehicles become more popular. Ample is already thinking ahead. They also want to be able to offer brand new batteries that are more advanced than the ones currently being used, as they become available. As opposed to going to a dealership in order to have a battery installed, drivers could just pull up to one of the pods and select an option to have a new battery installed.
13. The company is working with automakers to create systems that are compatible
In order for battery swapping to work, the batteries have to be compatible with the pods. Ample is working with a number of automakers in the United States in order to ensure that new electric vehicles produced will be compatible with their systems. Because Ample is fully automated, the batteries have to be installed in a particular manner in order for the pods to work. As a direct result, Ample is working with automotive manufacturers in order to ensure that their electric vehicles are compatible.
14. The system was built with fleet vehicles in mind
While the system was built with fleet vehicles in mind, that certainly doesn't mean that individual drivers who could benefit from using the system shouldn't choose to do so. Not all individuals need to have their batteries swapped out. Many of them simply charge their batteries overnight. However, a driver that has forgotten to charge their battery or is experiencing problems with their existing battery could benefit from charging stations like this one because it gives them an opportunity to continue on their journey uninterrupted.
15. Once the vehicle is in place, the process is initiated with an app
The system is simple enough to use. The driver merely pulls the vehicle into the pod and then initiate the process with an iPhone app. The only thing the driver has to do is make sure that the vehicle is parked in the right position, which is well marked, and then follow the instructions on the app.
16. The company is working to expand globally
While there are only a handful of pods currently in operation, the company is already working to expand on a global scale. They're well aware of the challenges involved with doing something like this. As such, they have begun talking with potential partners as a means of securing their future.
17. They are currently in talks with roughly half of the most prominent auto makers
As part of their desire to expand on a global scale, they are currently talking with roughly 50% of the most prominent automotive manufacturers throughout the world. Currently, there are approximately 10 automakers that are responsible for the majority of cars found on the road. Ample is in talks with five of them.
18. They plan to initially expand to other cities with EV fleets
While the company is operating almost exclusively in California’s Bay Area, they do plan to expand to other areas, beginning with the cities that have the highest concentrations of EV fleets. While they do have goals to expand globally, it all starts with increasing the number of pods that they have in the Bay Area and then slowly expanding to other cities. After they have fully tested the pods that are already in use, their goal is to place additional pods in the San Francisco area and then in other locations throughout California. From that point forward, they intend to expand into areas such as Houston, Dallas and Miami, major cities with relatively large numbers of fleet vehicles. Their existing partnership with Uber gives them a foot in the door in each of these cities. Obviously, the goal is to get other fleet vehicle operators to purchase electric vehicles which can then use Ample pods to swap their batteries out so that each vehicle experiences less downtime.
19. The use of Ample pods may extend battery life
One of the major benefits of using Ample pods is that it may extend overall battery life. When a battery is charged, it takes several hours to do so, as previously discussed. Sometimes, drivers don't have that much time to wait. As a result, they rapidly charge the battery. This can be done in as few as 30 minutes, but it creates a great deal of wear and tear on the battery itself. The ability to simply swap one battery out for another can dramatically increase the life of any given battery.
20. They are using some of the same locations as previous companies
Several years ago, another company called Better Place had the same idea about using battery swapping stations. However, they built all of their stations underground, forcing cars to drive over them in much the same way that a driver would drive over the pit for an oil change. This proved to be rather unpopular. Part of it had to do with the timing and the other part was because of the potential safety issues involved. Ample is using many of those same locations, but all of their pods are above ground and enclosed in much the same way as a tunnel would be.
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Written by Allen Lee
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