Changing instead of charging

Chinese company NIO hopes to revolutionize EV driving. Instead of charging empty batteries, they simply change them. In what looks like a state-of-the-art car wash. In Norway, NIO recently opened a swap station.

It looks like a car wash but it’s not. It’s a swap station, where drivers of electrical vehicles can change their empty batteries with full ones, in a matter of minutes. Chinese company NIO believes in this technology and is planning to build more than 4000 swap stations in the next three years.

Too expensive?

Interchangeable batteries are not a new technology. The majority of the car industry has dismissed the idea, simply because they think it’s too expensive. It requires a whole new infrastructure and a different type of batteries. Nevertheless, In home country China NIO is willing to take the change..
The great advantage of the swap technique is time. While recharging an electric car can take more than an hour, changing the battery takes less than 5 minutes. A substantial difference in time that has led to companies such as NIO or Aulton New Energy.

It helps, the Chinese administration is actively promoting the swapping technique. According to a report by Bloomberg, some 26,000 stations are expected to be built by 2025 as new brands will jump on the bandwagon.

Car wash construction

Last year, NIO introduced the second generation of its Power Swap Station. These are battery exchange stations in the form of a car wash. It works like this: car owners drive their vehicle inside the small construction and leave after only a few minutes with a new, fully charged battery.

Now here’s the catch: these stations are only compatible with NIO vehicles. Unlike other EV companies like Tesla, NIO sees “batteries as a service”. So the battery is not a hardware component but an integral part of their business strategy. NIO sells cars without batteries, at a cost 70% lower than normal. In return they charge your car for a subscription fee. You pay for the amount of batteries you intend to use.

At the moment, building a battery exchange station is hugely expensive. Currently, it can cost up to half a million euro to build a station with 14 battery slots.

Nevertheless, NIO has recently expanded into Europe. Norway just got its first swapping station. By the end of 2022, the company hopes to reach 20 stations in Norway while the German market is luring.

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Author: Rene Passet

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