Chinese electric car maker NIO is going against the entire European car industry with its battery-swap policy. In China, this model has proven successful without the need for professional captive fleets -such as taxis or VTC- and is a fast alternative to ultra-fast charging, which is also supported by their cars. At the moment it only has a commercial presence in Norway.
But it intends to expand during the second semester in more markets, such as Germany, Holland, Sweden, and Denmark. The growing presence of battery exchange stations will be a competitive advantage for NIO compared to other offers coming from China, but also Europe. To speed up its distribution and production, the first factory outside China will be opened in Pest (Hungary).
The battery exchange stations will be manufactured there, which can change the batteries through a robotic system in about 3 minutes without the customer having to get out of the car. This service is linked to a subscription, and the customer can choose to have a higher battery capacity temporarily, for example for summer trips. This is called BaaS (Batteries as a Service).
Let’s take a look at how the situation is in China. With data closed on July 31, the eastern half of the country has very good coverage. There are 1,047 battery exchange stations, of which 271 are along major highways. In addition, there are 948 charging stations with 5,137 individual chargers, as well as 828 charging stations at the destination (linked to hospitality and less power) with 5,083 individual charging points. To all that has been said, more than 550,000 third-party charging points are added. In those terms, traveling with an electric car is much easier.
NIO planned 4,000 battery exchange stations, of which 1,000 would be outside of China, so the deployment in its home country is well underway, above the third planned. At the moment NIO only operates in the Chinese market and select European countries, so we can assume that 1,000 charging stations will be mainly on European soil, although expansion to more countries is planned. Shell will be the main ally in the deployment of exchange stations.
At the end of last year, NIO installed its first battery exchange station in Europe. At the moment the NIO range destined for the European market is of higher range models, ET7 and ES8 (only Norway). Later in 2023 will come the ET5, a mid-size sedan and competitor to the Tesla Model 3, and the ES7 SUV. Three years from now, NIO will have a presence in 25 countries and world regions.