The Lier battery station in southern Norway is the first in Europe to be operated by Nio, a Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer that has been compared to Tesla.
The premise is simple, even if the mechanics are not. The replacement station will replace an exhausted EV battery with a full one in about five minutes.
Nio already has 836 exchange stations in China and plans to increase them to 1,300 globally by the end of this year. Of these, 20 will be in Norway, and the company is looking for places in Germany for its big launch there later this year.
Tesla initially proposed the technology for its cars before settling on the Supercharger network. In Europe, the Israeli company Better Place entered into an agreement with Renault in 2008 to use its electric vehicle replacement system, starting with the Fluence ZE limousine. Stations were built in Denmark and Israel, but the idea did not catch on, and in 2013 Better Place went bankrupt.
But while battery replacement has remained dormant in Europe, technology is spreading rapidly in China. Nio now claims that it has the capacity to make 30,000 shifts a day and is a leader in the private market, but others are looking to close the gap. Investments in technology include the battery company CATL, which is launching a service called Evogo that claims to change in less than a minute and for which the FAW Group has said it will make a new minivan.
The idea of changing the battery is not new
If you think that changing the battery is closest to the ease of refueling, global oil companies agree with you. Last year, BP signed an agreement with Aulton New Energy to develop battery replacement services, while many of Nio’s substations are located in the yards of Chinese oil giant Sinopec.
In Europe, Nio signed an agreement in December with Shell to build joint exchanges in Europe and China.
“I think we’re complicating it by changing the battery parts,” Paul Philpott, CEO of Kia UK, told the audience at the SMMT Electrified event in March. “Charging times will decrease,” he added, citing the already fast 18-minute time to get 10% to 80% charge on the new Kia EV6.
“Changing the battery is not globally scalable,” wrote Tom Callow, head of intelligence and foreign affairs for BP Pulse.
A Swedish study published last year cited Nio figures of $ 772,000 for the construction of a substation in China, including batteries, site rental, etc., compared to $ 309,112 for a charger station.
Nio needs to produce extra batteries to charge the 13 slots in its current iteration of the station. Aulton New Energy’s third-generation plant has 28 batteries, which requires an even higher cost of capital.