NIO, a growing Chinese electric vehicle maker, announced a new plan to open up battery swap stations and technology to other electric automakers.
Are there going to be any takers?
Over the years I have been covering electric vehicles, I’ve seen several companies attempt to add value to EVs by using swappable battery packs.
The idea is that if charging takes longer than refueling a tank of gas, we could just swap a battery pack for a fully charged one.
A startup called Better Place built its entire business model around it and went bankrupt.
Tesla rolled out its own battery swapping technology back in 2014, but it only built one battery-swapping station and quickly killed the project.
It’s why we were a bit skeptical when NIO, a Chinese EV manufacturer, launched its own battery-swapping scheme with its first electric vehicles back in 2018.
But the automaker has defied the odds, and the program has been quite successful as we previously reported when they completed 500,000 battery swaps last year.
Today, NIO announced at its Power Day in Shanghai that it has now completed “more than 2.9 million swaps,” which shows a strong ramp-up over the last year as the automaker’s customer fleet is growing.
That’s with 301 NIO Power Swap stations deployed in China.
At its Power Day, NIO announced an expansion of its battery swap stations:
“To provide a better power service experience to its rapidly growing user base, NIO will further expand NIO Power’s charging and swapping network. This year, NIO has raised its target of having over 700 instead of 500 battery swap stations installed by year end. From 2022 to 2025, NIO commits to installing 600 new battery swap stations in China. By the end of 2025, NIO will have more than 4,000 NIO battery swap stations worldwide with around 1,000 outside of China.”
But what caught our attention in NIO’s announcement is the statement that the company plans to open up its battery swap system to other automakers:
“Meanwhile, NIO announced to make NIO Power’s charging and swapping system and BaaS (Battery-as-a-Service) fully available to the industry in order to share its achievements with the automotive industry and smart electric vehicle users.”
The automaker didn’t elaborate on any project in the works through this new initiative.
This is an interesting development, but I have doubts that they will find any takers.
The process of swapping battery packs is so involved that in order for it to be compatible with another electric vehicle than a NIO EV, I would assume that the entire battery pack, or at least the form factor (maybe not the modules and cells), would have to also be designed by NIO.
If not designed, it would at least come with many limitations to be compatible.
I think that will bring pause to many automakers looking to take advantage of NIO’s growing network of battery swap stations, but it’s not impossible that some would see enough value in it to make the move.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.
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