Known for artsy watches, it may seem strange that Swatch is considering a move into the electric vehicle battery game, until you start to dig into the details. Swatch has been making batteries for watches for years, so the connection to the technology makes sense, but itâ€™s the specific battery chemistry that isÂ key to its recent actions. To understand the moves being madeÂ today, we need to first look at the history of Swatch challenging the status quo, as can be seen in its bold watch designs and more relevantly in its previous attempt to enter the electric vehicle market way back in the 80s and 90s.
The timing back then just wasnâ€™t quite right and really fell off the table when the whole deal tookÂ an awkward left turn after Swatch signedÂ a contractÂ with Daimler-Benz AG and created the smart car. Swatch was paired with Mercedes, which came out of the partnership with a 51 to 49 percent controlling interest in smart and took the brand in a differentÂ direction without much input from Swatch. Interesting fact of the day â€” â€œsmartâ€ is actuallyÂ an amalgamation of the â€œsâ€ from Swatch, â€œmâ€ fromÂ Mercedes, and â€œartâ€ representing the experimental, creative spirit of the new brand, which can still be seen in smart cars today even though the brand has since been fully integrated into Mercedes, which bought out Swatchâ€™s remaining interest years ago.
Dialing the watch forward a few decadesÂ to 2015 and itâ€™s clear from aÂ recentÂ Electric Cars ForumÂ articleÂ (in Spanish) that Swatch never lost that passion for electric cars. Adding onto that passion lots of experience buildingÂ batteries and products that run on batteries, and itâ€™s easy to see why Swatch is confident that now the time is rightÂ and that its unique battery chemistry gives it aÂ uniqueÂ angle on the market. The recent VWÂ emissions scandalÂ was the catalyst for its reassessment, and the venture looks to have received a green light.Â As mentioned above, Swatch has been making batteries for watches for years and is currently churning out over 800,000 batteries per day for Swatch watches and other small electronics from itsÂ factory in Switzerland.
Swatch is building on this core competency and will have a new production line fully functional in 12 months that will be able toÂ produceÂ battery packs for use in electric cars, scooters, and even bikes. Anyone can put 18650 cells in a pack and tie it all together with charging technology and come out the other end with an EV battery, but Swatch believes the new battery it hasÂ developed will allow itÂ to undercut the weight of theÂ batteries currently supplied by Panasonic to Tesla by more than 30%. Thatâ€™s huge in a game where each pound saved is one less pound the car has to get up to speed, to get to a stop as quickly as possible, and to carry around for the rest of its lifespan, so this is a big announcement.Â Alternately, this could result in packs that weigh the same but allow for a significantly higher range, which is equally powerful sinceÂ limited range is arguably the one key metric keeping the masses out of electric cars.
Swatch also believes the new battery will be able to charge twice as fast, safely. From theÂ Electric Cars ForumÂ articleÂ (translated by Google):Â â€œThis is because the design of the membrane separating the anode and cathode using solid materials, which also reduces the risk of explosion in the event of an accident.â€ Itâ€™s almost as if SwatchÂ took every drawback of current battery tech and made it better in just about every way.
I know what youâ€™re saying, James: â€œvaporwareâ€ â€” me too! It sounds too good to be true, and very well may be, but letâ€™s consider a few things:
- Swatch has created a car before and pushed hard for cleaner versions of it.
- Swatch has been building batteries for decades, so itâ€™s not beyond plausible that it hasÂ developed a superior chemistry.
- The CEO of Swatch, Nicolas G Hayek, Â is a serial entrepreneur and has started quite a few companies, with many that push the borders on whatâ€™s possible.
- Belenos Clean Power (a fully owned subsidiary of Swatch), which developed the revolutionary battery in partnership with the prestigious Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (aka ETHZ), was actually created in 2008.
As with many technologies, it is not possible to tell what the future holds for Swatch, butÂ it is still very exciting to see them re-entering the EV market and making some bold claims in the process. Bold claims that, if true, could step up the EV market not only for itself, but for all EV manufacturers (at the right price).