NIO’s Been Making EV Battery Swapping More Efficient

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CleanTechnica recently got to check out the NIO ES8 up close and personal in Norway — the brand new European edition of the ES8. Chanan Bos wrote a super thorough review of the ES8 over the weekend and has a related video coming as well. Interestingly, one of the biggest points of discussion and controversy in the comments under the story was regarding the battery swapping. Some see the battery swapping solution as a great, key differentiator for NIO that helps pull in more buyers and increase the convenience of EV life. Others see it as an inefficient, costly system that will never work at scale and is a poor alternative to better ultrafast charging.

As it turns out, NIO has been working on solutions to improve the efficiency and convenience of battery swapping. Even before Chanan dove into the ES8 and triggered yet another discussion about battery swapping, I had a story on this open to write about this. That’s not to say that we have the deepest insight into the matter, but we do have some news from earlier this year from NIO to share.

A few months ago, NIO rolled out its first NIO Power Swap Station 2.0 in Beijing, at Sinopec’s Chaoying Station. “As a smart battery swap system enabled by software defined cloud computing, NIO Power Swap Station 2.0 is the world’s first mass-produced battery swap station that allows the vehicle to manoeuvre into the station automatically,” the company writes. “Each NIO Power Swap Station 2.0 has 239 sensors and four collaborating cloud computing systems that maximise the application of visual recognition technologies. Enabled by the technology, users can complete a self-service battery swap with only one click while staying in the car. The system is capable of completing up to 312 battery swaps per day, significantly improving swapping efficiency.”

It seems that this automatic entry into the battery swap station would help to make the experience even quicker for customers/owners, and the streamlined experience likely helps to improve the cost-efficiency of the process for NIO as well. Though, to be frank, we don’t have insight into how much this part of NIO’s business costs the company.

Another interesting thing to note here is that NIO isn’t doing it all alone on this new NIO Power Swap Station 2.0. The advanced battery swapping station is the fruit of a partnership with Sinopec. “In addition to a battery charging and swapping network development, the two sides will comprehensively cooperate in fields such as new materials, smart EV tech., Battery as a Service (BaaS), vehicle purchasing and facilities to further leverage their advantages in building an innovative collaboration model between the global energy and automotive industries,” the companies write. “The partnership between Sinopec and NIO is an important milestone for the development of China’s smart EV industry, a concrete measure to reduce carbon emissions and achieve carbon neutrality, and a key step in the development of sustainable transportation initiatives and innovations.”

Sinopec is actually an old-school oil and gas giant. As with others in the industry (Shell, Total, BP, etc.), it seems that at least some people at the company are looking for ways to evolve into the new cleantech era — or at least dip a toe into it. “According to Yuzhuo Zhang, Sinopec’s Chairman, Sinopec is accelerating its transformation from traditional petroleum product sales, to an integrated energy service provider of oil, gas, hydrogen, electricity and non-oil businesses, focusing on the development of new dimensions such as battery swapping and high-power DC fast charging. Over the next few years, Sinopec plans to deploy 5,000 battery charging and swapping stations. The partnership with NIO will facilitate the two parties to fully leverage their advantages respectively, deepen the collaboration on a wider scope and ultimately achieve greater results, promoting a high-quality economic and social development and a higher quality of life for all.” It’ll be interesting to see how many of those 5,000 battery charging and swapping stations are battery swapping stations. In any case, though, it looks like this will be a notable partnership for NIO for the foreseeable future.

I will admit that I was quite skeptical of NIO’s battery swapping plans when they popped up. I was not bullish on the company and saw this as a bit of a gimmick. At this stage, though, at least part of me is converted. Overall, I think the option appeals to many people and that the extra diversity in this part of the EV ecosystem is a positive for the industry and the transition to clean electric cars and trucks. We’ll certainly get to see the longevity of the system in the coming decade, as this part of NIO’s business isn’t going away, and we’ll also apparently get to see how NIO battery swapping does in Europe and perhaps even North America eventually. We have our eyes on the company.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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