Originally published on Gas2.
Is the Nomadic Power battery trailer a dumb idea or pure brilliance? Located in Stuttgart, Germany, Nomadic Power may have solved the biggest issue people have with electric cars — range. Those of us who live in the US have this lingering fantasy about the Great American Road Trip. It’s the notion that we can pack the family into the family car and hit the open road and go wherever we choose — Disney World, the pier in Santa Monica, or Yosemite. It’s not so much that we will, it’s more that we could.
Elon Musk asked people at a reception in Paris recently how much range they would like in their electric cars. “500 miles,” he was told. He responded by saying that a battery large enough to deliver that much range would be too heavy and too expensive to be practical. Most of the time, the majority of all that battery capacity would be wasted. We may all think about driving that far on a single battery charge, but the reality is that Americans drive less than 40 miles a day, on average and 90% of the time on the whole.
Instead, imagine a storage battery mounted on a trailer. Then imagine a series of sharing stations every 100 miles or so along America’s highways. Drive in, drop off the old trailer with its depleted battery, hook up a new trailer with a fully charged battery, and be your way in minutes. Bazanga! No range anxiety and no sitting around some truck stop for an hour or more waiting for the battery in your EV to recharge. The company says its battery trailer could add from 100 to 250 miles of range, even taking into consideration the losses from towing the trailer itself.
Is that silly? Absolutely not. The world’s automakers are spending billions to develop hydrogen powered cars. Why? The #1 reason is because people want to be able to fill up and go in no more time than it takes to get a tank of gasoline today. It has nothing to do with saving the planet, rising sea levels, or breathing clean air. It has to do with convenience.
A few years ago, people talked about battery swapping schemes. The Nomadic Power battery trailer is infinitely easier and cheaper. It makes so much sense it will probably be banned by 17 Republican governors. And there is another side to the equation. What if, instead of renting a trailer, people could buy one and use it as energy storage device for a solar or wind power system at home? Now you have the fusion of extra mobility when you need it, and living off the grid when you don’t.
Even Elon Musk has expressed a liking for the idea, according to Swiss website Bilan. “We welcome that Elon Musk is interested in the concept of trailer based load extension like ours in order to further increase the autonomy of Tesla models. We are working on this concept for some time thanks to the support of the European Union and federal authorities and should be able to start mass production shortly,” says Manfred Baumgärtner, CEO of Nomadic Power.
Is this brilliance or madness? Does it make more sense to spend a few hundred dollars renting a range extender battery trailer when you need one or thousands of dollars to buy a car with a larger battery for those few days a year when you travel far from home? Please let us know what you think in the comments section.