The Best New EV Is Tiny And Can Swap Batteries In 3 Minutes
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The Best New EV Is Tiny And Can Swap Batteries In 3 Minutes

Apr 11, 2024

Almost all the mainstream EVs on the market are sleek, fast, high-tech-looking things with operating ranges of about 200 miles or more. And while all of those are desirable traits, they don’t really do you a hell of a lot of good when you’re crawling through city traffic at 27 mph or stuck at a charger for 45 minutes.

Sometimes the less obvious way can prove to be a better way, and I think this small German company, ACM, may have realized that with their charmingly industrial-looking little battery-swappable EV, the City One.

The City One is designed like a Japanese Kei-type “tall boy” small car—small exterior dimensions, with a tall, boxy body to maximize interior space. Adaptive City Mobility (ACM) designed the car (which is actually a bit bigger than Kei-class dimensions, at 141.7 inches long) to be a sort of multi-purpose, primarily city transportation tool, capable of being used as a taxi, shared-use car, small delivery van, and as a general passenger car.

Here, watch a video about it:

It can hold five passengers plus 14 cubic feet of luggage or can be a little van with over 51 cubic feet of cargo room; that’s about half as much as a Ford Transit Connect van, which is pretty good for such a little vehicle.

What I think really makes this little EV so interesting is how it handles its batteries and recharging. There’s a primary battery in the car that I think is mounted flat under the floor, the now-standard EV skateboard approach, but there are also four slots under the rear cargo floor that can take 2.5 kWh battery modules, each weighing just over 23 pounds.

All together, these removable 48V batteries seem to add about 75 miles of range, if I’m reading the specs correctly. It appears that the main battery has a range of about 149 miles, and then these four swappable batteries add their 75 miles, and can be very quickly and easily swapped.

There’s also an optional battery roof box that appears to hold four more swappable batteries, which would bring the total system’s range to 300 miles, with 150 miles of that being rapidly-swappable batteries.

This seems like a fantastic solution, to me. You would charge the main battery at home or wherever you park the car overnight—ACM is focusing on normal household wall-socket charging, as they correctly determined that normal wall outlets are still far more common than specialized EV fast chargers:

As such, it seems they’ve worked to keep charging time low—eight hours for normal wall-outlet charging, and five for fast charging.

That, plus additional batteries that can be quickly and easily swapped by one person with no special equipment gives this little machine the potential for unlimited range, provided a network of battery swap locations can be established, which would, in this context, take a lot less resources, real estate, and money to set up.

Battery swapping kiosks could be set up at any gas station, easily, taking up even less space than those propane tank-swapping setups lots of gas stations have.

I think the overall design of this thing is great; it looks rugged and friendly and utilitarian, all qualities I like. The use cases selected for the One necessitate a pretty hard-wearing interior, which, again, is something I appreciate anyway.

The dash seems to be all molded, unashamed plastics, the seat material seems hard-wearing, and it looks like there’s rubber mats instead of carpet, also a solid choice.

The rear seat folds into a hard, flat loading surface with a guard rail, and it appears you can cram a lot in there.

The guard rail is especially clever, as it’s hinged with the rear headrests, so when you flip them down to fold the seat, the rail flips up. That’s a good design.

It looks like the rear door has an e-Ink display integrated into it, for branding and advertising:

This seems like concept-car tech-wanking, but there’s nothing really to stop something like this, and an e-Ink display is far more energy efficient than an LCD, so it’s not a bad choice.

I can’t find horsepower numbers for it, and while I wouldn’t expect them to be much, I’d imagine it’s enough to hit normal city speeds and, maybe, just maybe minimum highway speeds?

The target markets for the City One are Asia, Africa, and likely some European ones. Sadly but not surprisingly, America isn’t on the list.

The target pricing for these is between around $12,000 to $18,000, and will be targeted at fleet sales primarily.

Personally, I’d drive something like this as a daily driver without hesitation. Maybe if this goes well the company might consider a Scion xB-scaled version for America, the same basic look and layout, but with somewhat upscaled battery and motor?

ACM will be first showing this publicly at the IAA Mobility show in Munich next week. Thanks to BMW, I’m going to be there, so I’m going to hunt these guys down and see if they’ll let me drive one of these around, or at least answer some questions.

More of this, please.