Spain's Acciona launches swappable battery electric vehicle

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Spanish energy, construction and services conglomerate Acciona, is seen during company's annual shareholders meeting in Alcobendas

MADRID (Reuters) - Drive, swap the battery, repeat. Spanish construction and energy group Acciona is betting on this formula to help remove some of the main hurdles hindering the take-up of electric cars in Spain and elsewhere in Europe: price and driving range.

The company launched on Monday its NanoCar Silence S04, an electric car designed for urban driving that comes with the option of a subscription-based battery exchange service which its developers say will make it one of the most affordable of its kind on the market.

The vehicle can carry two passengers and is designed to work with one or two lithium-ion batteries. Under the subscription system, drivers will own the car but not the batteries. For a monthly fee, they'll be able to swap batteries running out of mileage with new ones at dedicated stations, which the company envisages setting up at petrol stations, malls, its flagship stores, and other places like parking areas.

The batteries can also be charged using domestic sockets, with a full charge taking about eight hours.

Swappable car batteries are relatively uncommon in the EV market, with most trials conducted in China to date.

There are currently about 140 battery stations in Spain, the head of Acciona's mobility business, Carlos Sotelo, said, adding the company was targeting more than 200 by the end of the year.

Being able to swap batteries in roughly 30 seconds addresses concerns around battery range, he said.

Selling the vehicle without a battery means it will be cheaper than the average EV, Acciona Chairman Jose Manuel Entrecanales said during a presentation in Madrid.

Including state subsidies and tax deductions, the cheapest model will cost less than 7,000 euros ($7,582), using the subscription model based on a monthly fee. Buying the battery rather than opting for the subscription model adds a few thousand euros to the price.

"There are already small electric vehicles, but I believe the NanoCar will be the most affordable on the market due to its removable battery," Entrecanales said, while acknowledging the car would have to "sell a lot to be profitable".

The car will be built at the company's Barcelona facilities, which have the capacity to produce up to 20,000 vehicles a year.

Acciona is teaming up with Nissan to market the vehicle in Italy and France, and plans to reach other European markets, including Germany, starting from September.

($1 = 0.9233 euros)

(Reporting by Pietro Lombardi; Editing by Aislinn Laing and Mark Potter)