Chinese Battery & Auto Giants Looking To Follow & Rival NIO In Battery Swapping

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Tesla tried battery swapping a long time ago. Sort of. Maybe. In any case, it didn’t last long and there were only a couple of battery swap stations trialled. Better Place tried battery swapping for real in Israel, but then the company went bankrupt. NIO decided it would include battery swapping in its EV ecosystem nonetheless. Many assumed that was a dead end that would fail and potentially bring the company down with it. However, as it turns out, NIO’s battery swapping has flourished and has grown to a massive size. So, could others follow suit and succeed with it as well?

First of all, I think it’s worth noting that China is probably the ideal market for EV battery swapping. The country has numerous highly dense megacities, which inherently have limited space for dedicated parking and home or even workplace charging stations. Charging with home and workplace charging stations is the easiest thing you can imagine. However, when you don’t have that option, keeping an EV charged can be a challenge. Battery swapping is clearly one solution for many urbanites. Furthermore, China is quite quick to adopt new technology — often years ahead of those of us in the US and Europe now. It seems there’s more of an open-mindedness to jump on the next tech solution.

Regarding NIO, it has installed 2,432 Power Swap Stations (battery swapping stations) in China and just put into operation Battery Swap Station 4.0. I am not finding more recent stats, but one year ago, I wrote that NIO had performed 430,000 battery swaps in just one week! It had reached 22 million swaps overall. In the past half year or so, it has also started partnerships with Changan and GAC, two major automakers in China. So, what are competitors to do? Well, they can also partner with NIO, or they can find their own new and ambitious battery swapping partner.

News this week is that automotive giant BAIC Group has gone the latter route and is partnering with battery giant CATL on an EV battery swapping plan. “In the field of battery swapping business, BAIC Group has advantages in the development of new energy vehicles, especially the development and market expansion of battery swapping models. It has been deeply involved in the field of domestic battery swapping taxis and online car-hailing for many years and has accumulated rich experience in product development and promotion,” CATL writes. “Since the launch of the Chocolate battery swapping service brand, CATL has vigorously promoted the standardization of battery swapping by relying on continuous innovation in technology and business models. Based on their respective advantages, the cooperation between the two parties and CATL’s wholly-owned subsidiary Times Electric Service will focus on the development of battery swapping models and battery swapping blocks, the circulation of battery swapping blocks and battery-related data management, and regional cooperation in battery swapping stations. The two parties and Times Qiji will also cooperate in the development and sales of models related to the heavy-duty truck battery swapping business, as well as the sales, leasing and energy services of supporting batteries.

The partnership is about more than that as well. “In terms of the new generation of intelligent chassis, the two parties will carry out in-depth cooperation on the next-generation pure electric platform CIIC skateboard chassis project, jointly conduct research on the skateboard chassis architecture, system, process, cost, and performance balance, and create products based on the needs of ‘scenario-defined cars, intelligence, and personalization,'” the companies note.

We’ll see what comes of this, but it seems that EV battery swapping is alive and well in China, and now the biggest battery company in the world is getting more and more serious about it — and pushing to have it standardized.

Oh, by the way, CATL is also working with NIO to some degree on evolving battery swapping. See: NIO & CATL Partnership An Interesting Battery Evolution.

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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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