Ford considers EV battery swapping via drive-up docking stations

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A recently surfaced patent application from Ford envisions a new type of EV battery swapping system.

EV battery swapping generally involves removing a depleted battery pack from underneath the vehicle and sliding in a fully charged one. But in this patent application, the automaker discusses drive-up docking stations that would use a vehicle’s own power to complete the swap.

Instead of detaching a heavy battery pack from underneath a vehicle, Ford envisions a series of electrically-connected modules that could be disconnected and swapped. These modules could be accessed from either the front or rear of the vehicle, accompanying drawings show. So vehicles would park at one of the docking stations as if they were pulling up to a charger.

Ford EV battery swapping patent image

Typically for a patent application, Ford discusses lots of variations that might not make it into the final design should it be commercialized. In addition to EVs, Ford claims the docking stations could work with hybrids and other types of machinery ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to “a watercraft such as a submarine, or a robot.” On a car, particularly, the placement of heavy battery packs higher up in the vehicle might have a profound effect on dynamics and possibly stability.

Ford also discusses large, self-aligning connectors for the battery modules—creating lots of wiggle room to make the docking process easier—as well as a two-way locking system to keep them in place. The docking stations themselves could also serve as charging hubs, Ford suggests.

Ford EV battery swapping patent image

Ford EV battery swapping patent image

As with other patented ideas, it’s unclear if Ford’s battery swapping system will get commercialized. The application was published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) May 14, 2024, but it was originally filed by Ford back in 2018, so it’s unclear whether this is an idea Ford is filing away or one it might potentially test out.

Currently, Chinese automaker Nio operates a large battery-swapping network in China based around removing and replacing battery packs of a conventional design from underneath EVs. It’s expanding to Europe as well, and has partnered with Chinese battery maker CATL on the next generation battery swapping. China’s Geely—parent of Volvo and Polestar—is also on board.

In the U.S., startup Ample has been working on battery swapping to include larger delivery trucks. Last December, Stellantis announced plans for a Fiat 500e battery-swapping test with Ample’s system.

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