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China's NIO Inc is in Talks to License its EV Battery Swapping Technology to Other Automakers

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【Summary】China-based electric vehicle startup NIO Inc is reportedly in talks to license its electric vehicle battery swapping technology to rival automakers, the Financial Times reported on Monday. NIO’s electric vehicles are uniquely designed, as the batteries can easily be removed in a highly automated process of one of the company’s 800+ battery swapping stations.

Eric Walz    Apr 05, 2022 5:00 PM PT
China's NIO Inc is in Talks to License its EV Battery Swapping Technology to Other Automakers
NIO's newly redesigned battery swapping stations can replace an EV's battery pack in minutes.

China-based electric vehicle startup NIO Inc is reportedly in talks to license its electric vehicle battery swapping technology to rival automakers, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

NIO's electric vehicles are uniquely designed, as the batteries can easily be removed in a highly automated process of one of the company's hundreds of battery swapping stations in China.

According to the Financial Times, NIO is in talks with both Chinese and international auto groups to open up its network of battery swap stations, according to its European president, Zhang Hui. NIO wants to sell the technology and infrastructure to other groups in order to expand its use outside of China.

One challenge for automakers however, is that they must use the same battery design as NIO's vehicles, so the robotic systems can complete the battery exchange process. So any automaker wanting to license NIO's technology will have to build its vehicles using the company's standardized platform, according to Zhang.

The battery swap stations are called "NIO Power". The entire swap process takes about 10 minutes. It offers a faster alternative of plugging in and waiting for the battery to charge, but also helps address the lack of convenient EV charging infrastructure.

In July of last year, NIO shared its strategic plan to develop a comprehensive EV charging ecosystem for its electric vehicles. The initiative is called "NIO Power 2025" and it includes deploying 4,000 battery swapping stations globally by 2025, with the next installations in Europe where NIO is expanding. Approximately 1,000 of NIO's battery swap stations will be located outside of China. 

As of April 3, NIO had 888 battery swap stations and 729 supercharging stations in China, according to data gathered by local media outlet CnEVPost.

NIO refers to residences within a 3 km radius from one of its battery swap stations as a "Swap Station District House". The automaker said last year that roughly 29% of its customers live in a swap station district. By 2025, NIO said that 90% of its customers will live less than 3 kilometers away from a NIO battery swap station.

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So far, no other automaker has confirmed it will use NIO's battery swap infrastructure, but NIO's new more affordable sub-brand is likely to.

NIO confirmed in early August last year that it would enter the mass market by launching a sub-brand. The vehicles under the brand would cost less than Tesla models, but the passenger experience would be better.

NIO's more affordable sub brand vehicles would cost around RMB 150,000 -250,000 ($23,570 - $39,283).

NIO was founded in 2014 by Chinese entrepreneur William Bin Li, who serves as the company's CEO. Mr Li is often referred to as China's Elon Musk. NIO is one of Tesla's main competitors in China. 

Last month, NIO announced that deliveries of its new flagship ET7 electric sedan have officially started. Representatives of NIO delivered the first ET7 sedans to customers at the company's headquarters in Hefei, China on March 28, 2022.

The ET7 is based on a concept vehicle that NIO first unveiled at Auto China 2019. The competitively-priced sedan is poised to become a direct competitor to Tesla's Model 3 and Model S in China, as well as the P7 Smart Sedan from NIO's domestic rival Xpeng Inc.

In June of last year, NIO announced it received European Whole Vehicle Type Approval (EWVTA) to sell its fully-electric ES8 flagship SUV in Europe, which was the company's first expansion outside of China. 

The EWVTA certification marked the first steps for NIO's entry into Norway and the European market at large. On July 7, 2021, NIO announced that the first shipments of its NIO Power stations and EV chargers were shipped to Norway.

In December, NIO expanded its battery exchange program in the China market that allows customers to upgrade the battery in their vehicles for a small monthly fee.

The new battery upgrade program allows customers that have already purchased a NIO model with the standard 70 or 75 kWh battery pack an opportunity to upgrade to a more powerful and longer range 100 kWh battery by paying an additional 880 yuan (US$140) a month

The 100 kWh battery pack has a NEDC range of 615 km (382 miles) and is available as an option on NIO's vehicles.

NIO's latest 100kWh battery pack features cell-to-pack (CTP) technology  jointly developed with Chinese battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Limited (CATL). 

NIO's new battery upgrade service was first launched as a pilot in July 2021 in the cities of Urumchi, Shenyang, Xining, Lanzhou, Yinchuan, and Hohhot. The company is now expanding the service across the Chinese mainland.

NIO also offers a first-of its kind battery subscription plan for its EVs. The automaker launched the "Battery-as-a-Service" (BaaS) monthly subscription plan in August 2020. It allows owners to pay a monthly fee for the battery that's separate from the vehicle's purchase price. The BaaS plan is designed to lower the upfront purchase price of the vehicle, so its more affordable. 

The subscription service helps to offset the cost of the battery pack, which is the most expensive component of any electric vehicle and adds thousands of dollars to the sticker price.

In Sept 2018, NIO made headlines when it became the first Chinese electric vehicle startup to go public in the U.S. in order to take advantage of strong investor interest in EV stocks and related companies that helped make Tesla the world's most valuable automaker. 

NIO raised $1 billion in its U.S. IPO on Sept 12, 2018.  Shares of the company trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the stock symbol "NIO". 


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