Tesla Rival's Battery Swapping Service Makes EVs Cheaper

Shanghai-based EV maker NIO swaps your dead battery with a new fully charged one.
Chris Young
New battery swap serviceNio/Vimeo

Nio, the Shanghai-based electric vehicle maker often cited as China's answer to Tesla, is now allowing buyers the option of acquiring an electric car without a battery, a FastCompany report explains.

The company is offering a "battery-as-a-service" option in order to help consumers save money on the purchase price of its luxury vehicles.

"We’ve seen electric vehicles range anywhere from $10,000 to $70,000 more than your standard internal combustion engine vehicle, and that’s simply because the cost of the battery is so expensive," Joanne Yamani, Nio’s director of communications, told FastCompany.

Instead of paying for the battery, Nio gives customers the option to pay for a monthly subscription to a service, that roughly approximates the cost of buying gasoline for an internal combustion engine car.

Whenever a Nio car user subscribed to the battery-as-a-service plan needs more power, they drive into one of the company's garages, and a machine will automatically remove the current battery and install a fully-charged replacement into their vehicle.

"Your depleted battery is popped out, and a refreshed, fully charged battery is popped in within three minutes," Yamani explained. "And then you can just drive off. You don’t have to worry about sitting around waiting for your car to charge up."

Is the time right for 'battery-as-a-service'?

The scheme isn't only aimed at affordability: it is particularly useful in crowded urban spaces where car owners might not have access to chargers in parking garages.

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As of now, Nio has a network of 178 battery swapping stations located in and around major cities including Beijing and Shenzen. The company plans to expand this network to 500 stations by the end of the year. Meanwhile, if a customer runs out of power and gets stranded, they can use an app to ask the company to send a mobile charging unit.

As FastCompany explains, other companies, including Tesla, tested battery swapping in the past only to scrap the idea — or in the case of Israel's Better Place, file for bankruptcy. Yamani, however, argues that the concept was implemented too soon by other companies.

Nio believes that with the increased uptake of electric vehicles, the time is just right for "battery-as-a-service" to take off.

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