NIO Now Has 18 Battery Swapping Stations: Watch Swap In Action

NOV 16 2018 BY MARK KANE 49

One more approach to battery swap stations.

Beijing–Hong Kong–Macau G4 Expressway

Since Spring of this year, NIO has been expanding its battery swap stations for its ES8 electric cars (and future models) in China.

According to NIO, there are now 18 such stations up and running along the major highway: the G4 Beijing–Hong Kong–Macau Expressway. We assume that stations are spread over the length of 2,270 km (1,410 mi) by some 125 km (80 miles) or so.

One of the battery swap stations is installed next to a Tesla Supercharging station, which seems quite interesting as Tesla once tried the battery swap stations, but ended the project after a single demonstration station that wasn’t too popular.

NIO intends to offer 12 free battery swaps annually for the first batch of customers, but in general it will be a paid service.

The ES8 is equipped with 70 kWh battery (from CATL) and can go more than 355 km (220 miles) (NEDC) or 500 km (310 miles) at 60 km/h (37 mph).


Categories: China, NIO

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49 Comments on "NIO Now Has 18 Battery Swapping Stations: Watch Swap In Action"

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Looks like the battery pack is attached with only four bolts?

perhaps, but each bolt is a Malmilian 🙂

This seems to be a bit on the slow side for now.

You’re very polite.

So 4m 15s is slow to you? It takes longer to fill up a car at the gas station.

It doesn’t. It is about 2L of diesel per second at my regular filling station.
Anyways that wasn’t the point. If a single station needs about 5 minutes to change one battery you better hope there isn’t even a single car in front of you because else a car charging at 200kW or more is going to be quicker.

What car charges at 200kW?

None right now — but that’s supposed to start changing in early 2020 with the introduction of the Porsche Taycan… Maybe even sooner, depending on what Tesla has in the works regarding Supercharger v3.

NIO car can be fast charged as well. Battery swap is just an option which saves your time if your willing to pay more. NIO never try to put the fast charging on the opposite side of their cars.

Small minded git. This is about building infrastructure for the next decades. It doesn’t matter what is on the market today. The EVs bought and driven by early adopters today are just legacy toys tomorrow.

But what if there is a car in front of you at your 200KW charging station?

I suspect the incremental CapEx for another charger stall is a fraction of that for another swapping station…

The positioning of the robot-sledge under the battery pack was very fast including the screwing out of the pack. Bjorn Nyland had a video from Korea of a charging robot in a parking lot in Korea where the positioning was taking much longer then for Nio.

This 4 minutes could be further improved by using 2 robots: the robot-sledges come in and move out already aligned – so no need for the 90-degree turn. After sledge #1 takes out the empty pack then robot-sledge #2 comes in from the left with the full pack as soon #1moves out to the right side. Should be possible in 2 minutes then.

The time does not include backing up into the battery changing station. Did you see the steep ramp and the small width? A normal driver would hesitate to try even…
The whole process could be optimised much further: Why bothering to lift the whole car? Why is there need to turn the pack 90° ? …
Still I am curios if Chinese mentality will accept battery swap, after California and Israel did not…

Driving in and out is done fully automatically. In a NIO you just tell the cars´ AI system to swap the battery and it does it for you.

I don’t see how you could pull the pack from under the car without lifting… Unless using some complex trap door and major subterranean installation.

That’s not really comparable at all. Even ignoring that the Samsung charging robot was an early prototype, it used generic optical recognition, rather than a special-purpose (probably laser-guided) positioning system calibrated for this exact car model.

Sorry to say, the battery swap only works for rental/fleet operations.

Swapping out $15K battery pack for about $25K worth of energy is just bad business model to start with.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

You’re not swapping the pack for energy, you’re swapping it for time.

The battery packs are not owned by the owner, but are instead leased, so the owner never needs to worry about their battery (other than monthly payment). Instead of recharging for 20 or 30 minutes you swap with a charged battery in about 4 minutes.

The problem is that company that leases it have to have a huge capital up front for it.

What is the ROIC on $15K investment for $25 return at a swap? With relatively low volume of cars, how much does that $15K generate per year? The math doesn’t favor the business model.

Battery swapping is an elegant end-around the issue of recharge times, but sadly it’s one that doesn’t survive its encounter with real world economics. Even assuming you get around all the pack ownership and responsibility issues, you still need one heck of a lot of vehicles swapping batteries at each station every day for this to work. You might need enough, in fact, that you’d have a line at each station, thereby minimizing the value of the concept.

Right. Somebody has to pay for those very expensive battery packs, and the swap station are expensive too. Whether it’s the customer or the company, it’s an enormous up-front startup cost.

That’s why (Project) Better Place failed. It will be interesting to see if NIO can make the economics work for them. I will be very surprised indeed if they can. Battery costs have come down somewhat since Better Place failed, but I seriously doubt they’ve come down far enough for a company to be able to make this profitable.

If up-front capital for leasing was a problem in general, nobody would be leasing cars at all…

Others made a good point though that swapping requires additional investment for the spare batteries. Not sure how much of an issue that is compared to other costs — but I guess it might be enough to be a relevant obstacle…

For a typical road-trip for my family, we’d need about 3 battery-swaps. If the swap station could recharge the old battery in 1 hour, then I’d be using an extra pack for about 3 hours total. Assuming most travel is over 12 hours of the day, the vendor would need about 25% of a pack in their overall inventory count to serve me that day (spread across three locations). I do road-trips about 6 times per year, or 12 travel days counting return trip (3% of days in the year). With thousands of customers, the swap vendor might only need 3%x12% = 0.04% of extra battery packs in their inventory per-customer to help out with occasional road trips. But my trips tend to be around holidays, so that number is too low. But even you pick 4% (10 times higher), that may only be $600 over the life of the car. The car manufacturer could sell cars with leased batteries, and start like Niro: with a few stations along one well-travelled highway corridor that is presently too long for an EV. That said, I agree that if charging can get fast enough to happen while you’re taking a routine travel… Read more »

It’ll be interesting to see whether a swap model is successful in China. Project Better Place also had them, but it was explicitly only a temporary measure until BEV ranges caught up. Seems to me that the operations cost of maintaining a swap network is probably too high, and requires too much standardization between car models.

Yep.. I ran the numbers many times and found that it was very impractical. I think that’s why Tesla gave up on them too. Sure, it works. But there is no way to earn a profit from it.

How is ownership of the battery pack and battery warranty handled?

Do owners not purchase the pack with the vehicle ? By swapping, are owners guaranteed to get their pack back on a return trip? If not … how are transfer of ownership and issues related to pack performance handled in future?

Seems like owner assumes a high finincial risk for gaining a slightly quicker charge in energy capacity.

Battery swapping is usually used with a battery rental model. The vehicle owner doesn’t own the pack, and is never guaranteed any specific one. Instead, the deal is that s/he will always be given a pack with guaranteed minimum capacity & performance. That way, there’s a fixed monthly cost and no worry about needing to buy a new battery later on.
The disadvantage is that car owners have no incentive to treat the battery well, and if the rental operation & its swap stations go bankrupt, long-distance trips become a problem.
It worked in the Better Place model because the packs were only charged using company-owned and managed chargers — it was technically impossible (encrypted connection) and actually illegal for the car owner to charge the car directly from a household socket.

Well, it didn’t work for Better Place, either, in the economic sense. The company went bankrupt only about a year after they started selling subscriptions to their service.

Better Place’s economic model wasn’t tied to swap stations. Like I wrote above, all charging was through their own chargers, including charging at home/workplaces/destination charging. The overall idea was EVs-like-a-cellphone-service where the car owner contracted for a certain number of miles a year of driving, paying a fixed amount/month and not charged per electricity usage.
Their model never really got tested, since they went bankrupt due to a very typical startup failing: Instead on concentrating on a single successful pilot for a couple of years, they acted like they were already a big, profitable company, hired people like there was no tomorrow, tried setting up 3-4 pilots simultaneously, and of course failed because they they didn’t make sure the first pilot was actually workable (e.g., the overall TCO for the cars+service in Israel ended up just 3-4% less than an ICE car, whereas it was a big risk foran owner to rely on a startup).

Not sure how proprietary chargers are supposed to change the situation?…

Did they just wipe the serial number off and put the same pack in?

Ignore that, just watched it again, the second pack is scratched up.

Tesla was able to do a swap in as little as 90 seconds(3 minutes once the titanium under plate was installed) but interest was nearly non existent. So, kind of died on the vine. I imagine heavy trucking could be the game changer though on this front.

Dunno about heavy trucking. Drivers have mandatory breaks, unloading takes time, so plentry of opportunity to charge. May be long haul where you have two drivers on shifts could benefit from battery swaps.

The real hurdle is you lock yourself into a limited battery form factor.

Yeah, it might in theory work for trucking fleets, because all the trucks and all the packs will be owned by the company. That would eliminate one of the problems that Tesla had with swapping Model S packs; owners were reluctant to swap out their car’s battery pack for another.

However, Tesla didn’t talk about the possibility of battery swapping for its Semi Truck, so I presume Tesla doesn’t think they can make the economics work there.

In order to swap at a Tesla swap station you needed to RSVP a special invitation.
Not all Tesla owners were invited. And you needed to schedule an appointment to swap.
When do you have to schedule a special appointment to buy gas?

The attempt at Tesla swapping station was bogus. It was done to get CARB credits.

Didn’t you also have to pick up your original pack on the return trip, too?

Considering they had to specifically design the car for swappable packs, I’m pretty sure they were serious about the attempt at one point…

Interesingly, the swap takes 4 minutes. On the InsideEVs home page there is a story right beneath this one saying: “Electric Loading Claims 4-Minute Ultra Fast-Charge For Porsche”. Just sayin’

Maybe this could catch on in high-rise nation China where many people don’t have access to home charging.

Adding chargers to public parking spots is probably more feasible (and way more useful) than building a lot of swapping stations for all kinds of car models…

I think the fact that the first batch is built along a major highway clearly indicates what the idea is here.

Rental price is not economical. There’s no advantage in savings vs gasoline.

Gasoline is not an easy option in few congested places in China. New gasoline car registration is restricted, use of certain city highways is time restricted, and so on.
You don’t buy half a million yuan car to save on peanuts anyway.

How many times does this have to be shown to be a dumb idea?

This makes sense once overall EV volumes in a region are high enough. Battery-swapping meets a niche need, and once the overall market is large enough the niche is large enough as well.

I guess some parts of China already meet this criterion. I also wonder about Tesla returning to battery swapping starting in California, at some point in the medium future.

Very unlikely. Most people already say that charging is usually a non-issue with a long-range Model 3 — and it’s only going to get better as technology improves.

Anyone care to use their imagination and see beyond the basic “swapping” as a method to refuel?

Government subsidies are per battery not per vehicle. If NIOs costs are bellow the subsidy then they print money for every pack made.

What would you do with a big pile of EV batteries sitting around all day? Personally I would use it as a grid tie ESS and make money on peak shaving, arbitrage, and frequency regulation.

What happens to the vehicle depreciation model when its range INCREASES over time due to swapping in new batteries?

Second life applications get much more lucrative if you control the supply of packs coming out of the field and they come with full usage history.

Anyone else charge from 0 to 100% in 3 minutes (20C Charge Rate)? Didnt think so.