Battery Swap Model Could Spell Future of Transportation

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — University of Wisconsin students have pioneered a way to significantly advance the electric vehicle movement.

The student proposal, "Electricity and Petroleum as Long-Distance Fuels," focuses on a 15-year, five-city initiative to develop a model battery swap retail program. Presented at the Fuels Institute's inaugural Future of Transportation Case Competition during the Institute's Spring Meeting in New Orleans, the concept earned the students a $5,000 top prize.

Battery swapping stations are about the size of a car wash and would address the challenge of longer electric vehicle charging times. The Wisconsin students also had retailers in mind, allowing for a 3-percent profit margin for battery swaps, with the opportunity for convenience store operators to also earn more in-store sales while waiting for an electric vehicle to charge.

“Our goal in designing our model was not to argue what the world should be. Nor was it to dream about what the world could be. Our goal was to design the most plausible model, considering current technologies, customer attitudes and government involvement in the industry,” the Wisconsin students stated in their winning proposal.

Already an option in Israel, the students claim electric vehicles would also become more affordable as consumers would be "renting" batteries as part of the battery swap.

The five-city test market would focus on populations with populations of approximately 300,000, such as Madison, Wis., where the college is located.

“By developing a battery-swapping model now, and implementing it in a handful of American cities, the value chain is able to learn about and improve electricity as a fuel before a radical shift in government regulation,” the students noted in their proposal.

The Fuels Institute, founded by Alexandria-based NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, in 2013, said it was not only impressed by the electric vehicle concept, but also relayed it was presented at the right time.

“The fuels and vehicles industries are facing a rapidly changing policy and technology environment, presenting perhaps the first real opportunity since early in the 1900s for dramatic industry reinvention. The sheer amount of new fuels, and new drivetrains, which lie just around the horizon, is truly breathtaking,” said Fuels Institute Executive Director John Eichberger. “The University of Wisconsin team presented a very thoughtful path forward for how to actually make this happen.”

Northwestern University captured second place in the competition for its proposal, "Integrating Electric Vehicles in the Future Transportation Value Chain," earning $2,500.

Third place went to the University of Texas at Dallas for its "Monetizing Environmentalism" proposal, earning the school $1,000.

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