After installing its first battery exchange station in Norway in autumn 2021, the Chinese manufacturer Nio has set foot on the old continent to offer an alternative to conventional charging of its electric vehicle. But what is this service and how does it work?
We told about it when Nio arrived in Norway to install the first battery replacement station, called “Power Swap Station”, and our colleagues fromClean car was able to test it under real conditions. The possibility to take stock of what Nio offers to avoid having to recharge during the journey.
The alternative to fast charging
The limitations of the electric car on long journeys are well known: We waste time recharging, however quickly it may be. In fact, even though fast charging advocates claim to reach 80% battery in less than 20 minutes, that’s still a lot longer than filling up a tank of gas.
This is why some manufacturers have had the idea of offering a battery replacement service where the customer would arrive in his vehicle, his battery (empty or almost) would be removed and replaced by a full one (at 90%), enough to recover several hundred kilometers of autonomy in a few minutes.
A Tesla idea from 2013
Tesla had also made a strong impression in 2013 by introducing its battery replacement service – which never saw the light of day, despite new patents in 2017 – proving it was faster than filling a large tank of ‘essence’. But in reality, fast charging continues to be popular, and this of almost all brands of electric cars.
However, Chinese industry giant Nio proves that the battery exchange service is very popular with its customers, with numbers to back it up. These are actually around 1,000 stations which are available in its proprietary network which has recorded more than ten million battery changes (ie 10,000 per station).
A “recharge” in less than 6 minutes
With a rotation of less than five minutes, a station operating 24 hours a day could theoretically replace up to 312 batteries per day. To do this, each station has fourteen slots, thirteen of which are occupied by batteries that are full or charging. This way, a new vehicle arriving will occupy the last available slot before it gets a 100% charged battery pack.
In practice, when you first arrive in front of the station, the maneuvers of a Nio vehicle are performed automatically to enter and less than three minutes later the battery pack was removed. The process is quite well thought out, with specific tools used to facilitate the operation.
Once the battery pack is removed, it disappears under the car where a hatch is opened and then closes. After a few seconds, the hatch opens again to make room for another charged battery, which is mounted on the vehicle. That total duration is 4 minutes and 23 secondscompared to the dozens of minutes it takes to recharge, however fast that may be.
In the video by our colleagues, the Norwegian driver of a Nio ES8 announces that he rents the battery for 200 euros per month and that it gives him access to six battery changes per month (i.e. the equivalent of 600 kWh of energy). It is also possible to buy the battery for 20,000 euros.
Soon 1,000 km autonomy thanks to Nio?
According to the latest information leaked by Nio, the 150 kWh version of the Nio ET7, which promises 1,000 km of range on the NEDC cycle (so in reality much less) is still scheduled to arrive in the fourth quarter of 2022 or, at worst, in the first quarter of 2023 with its semi-solid state battery. And this particular Nio ET7 should appear in Germany by the end of the year and potentially in France, but not before 2023.
The next few months promise to be rich in electric cars with the arrival of BYD, the world number 2 in electric cars, behind Tesla but ahead of Volkswagen, in Europe!
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