I wrote a long article about NIO in the summer 2022. I had visited NIO and the NIO House in Oslo in the spring. While most of the visit was a conference about NIO, the next day we did have the opportunity to drive and use the battery swap station outside of Oslo. It was not a normal test drive. We had a destination and a car full of participants. I could enjoy the car from the second row, the first row passenger seat, and behind the wheel. I also got the privilege of being the driver when using the battery swap station.
Birth of the BEV
NIO started by grabbing the attention of the automotive world with an electric supercar. It is only fit to drive around on circuits, but in China, with many dozens of EV startups every year, grabbing attention is important.
The first models for sale to the public were the ES8 and ES6. Both are big luxury SUVs in the style of the large Range Rover or Hummer icons.
- Battery swappable from 75 kWh to 150 kWh, with about 200–400 miles of range.
- Motor: 160 kW + 240 kW and 725 Nm of torque, all-wheel drive (2020 version).
- Motor: 180 kW + 300 kW and 850 Nm of torque, all-wheel drive (2023 version).
- Charging: 130 kW DC and 11 kW AC.
- Battery swap in 5 minutes, fully automated.
- Swap from 75/84/100/150 kWh to 75/84/100/150 kWh based on availability and choice.
- Euro NCAP: ***** (5 stars)
- Length * Width * Height: 200.7” * 78.3” * 58.9”
- The prices in Europe are not clear. They are advertised in Norway without taxes and without battery for around €60,000. In the EU, the price will likely be around €100,000, including VAT and delivery costs before incentives.
As this is a true first impression, not based on a normal test drive but just some vehicle use with other NIO visitors, I will be brief. It was my first time driving a new BEV after COVID shut down all exploring of the car market. The difference with my Zoe was huge, and not just when it comes to the size of the vehicle.
The ADAS suite is 10 years younger than what is in my ZOE. The head-up display was a big improvement over my small dashboard. The seats were very comfortable. The doors were wide enough. With my recent experience of the top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benz EQS, I can confirm that it is indeed in that luxury class.
At that level, the definition of luxury is made by the buyer, not by a reviewer. They are absolutely not the same. A Range Rover–style SUV and EQS-style SUV are too different to actually be in the same class and be compared. Only on paper and when looking at the price is there any resemblance.
When the NIO battery swapping station network reaches a size such that on most trips one station is likely to be along your route, that will make for fast and comfortable travel. Swapping is really a 5-minute, effortless experience. It is completely automated and the driving into and out of the swapping station is taken care of by the vehicle.
Renting the battery and swapping it when needed makes it possible to drive with a smallish 75 kWh battery for daily use, and use a 150 kWh battery when making road trips. This removes the biggest disadvantage of big batteries, carrying their weight around when a big battery is not needed. It is also a better use of the limited supply of lithium that will keep batteries expensive for the next decade.
NIO has invited other OEMs to offer models with the NIO battery swap option. I hope some will take NIO up on this offer. It does have advantages for some use cases and user groups.
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