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A California Startup Now Offers a Full EV Battery in Just 10 Minutes

Ample offers a replaceable battery pack made for swapping out, rather than plugging in.

Ample Inc. is piloting battery swapping centers for electric vehicles in San Francisco. The startup is one of the only companies offering the service in the United States.

Ample Inc. is piloting battery swapping centers for electric vehicles in San Francisco. The startup is one of the only companies offering the service in the United States.

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
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On a Wednesday afternoon in May, an Uber driver in San Francisco was about to run out of charge on his Nissan Leaf. Normally this would mean finding a place to plug in and wait for a half hour, at least. But this Leaf was different.

Instead of plugging in, the driver pulled into a swapping station near Mission Bay, where a set of robot arms lifted the car off of the ground, unloaded the depleted batteries and replaced them with a fully charged set. Twelve minutes later the Leaf pulled away with 32 kilowatt hours of energy, enough to drive about 130 miles, for a cost of $13.