The NIO Power-Swap Experience

Chinese NIO is an innovative electric car manufacturer which brought a new way of charging technology to Europe. NIO's innovative approach to electric vehicle power management through battery swap stations has marked a significant advancement in EV infrastructure, showcasing a rapid adoption in China and extending into Europe. The company has surpassed 30 million battery swaps, demonstrating the technology's viability and growing acceptance. This rapidity of adoption is underscored by milestones achieved in relatively short periods: from reaching the first 10 million swaps in four years to adding another 20 million in just 15 months, including a record 78,233 swaps in a single day​​​​. Currently, NIO operates almost 2,000 swap stations across China and has ambitious plans to expand this network to over 4,000 globally by the end of 2025, with around 1,000 of these stations located outside of China​​​​.

The NIO Power Swap Station in Zusmarshausen, Germany, represents a significant milestone in the expansion of NIO's innovative battery swap technology into Europe. Opened on September 28, 2022, this station was the first of its kind in Germany, offering NIO users a revolutionary charging solution that includes fully automatic battery replacement.

This project is a collaboration between NIO, Sortimo (the operator of one of Europe's largest charging parks), and TSG (the European market leader in technical services for mobility solutions)​​​​. Strategically located next to the busy A8 motorway between Stuttgart and Munich, the Zusmarshausen station is part of NIO's broader initiative to provide a superior power service experience to its rapidly expanding user base

NIO's third-generation swap stations can change a battery in about four minutes, offering a significant time advantage over traditional charging methods. This efficiency makes the swap stations especially appealing for long-distance travel. NIO recommends that you reserve a space for the battery swap in your display in order to avoid waiting times at the station. Once parked in front of the power swap station, your NIO vehicle takes over and parks itself without any human interference into the box automatically. And the best thing is, that you stay in the vehicle to experience the swap, underneath you, first hand.

The idea is simple: instead of waiting half an hour or more to charge your EV's battery to 80% SOC at a DC fast charger, you can swap your battery for an almost fully charged one at a Nio Power Swap Station. I had the opportunity to experience this battery swap from inside the vehicle a few days ago. Every step was explained from in-car aid Nomi, the four minute exchange was easy and fully recommendable. For an experienced EV driver, the stop of four minutes is almost too short, a new way of getting power into your vehicle.

In order to exchange the battery pack, the NIO vehicle is lifted on a platform while the battery is exchanged automatically. While exchanging the battery packs, the car has shaken a little, comparable to an easy ride in a roller coaster - enjoyable and fun for the kids on the back seats. The steering out of the swapping station had to be done by the driver, carefully watching out for the many spectators of this innovation. Here in Zusmarshausen such a battery swap is still considered to be an adventure, hence the crowd at the scene.

Our ‘new’ battery was delivered with a 90 percent charge, the quick turnaround helped us being back on the road again after five minutes, thus offering a quick and convenient alternative to traditional charging methods. Several reports reveal modern NIO station's capacities to perform up to 312 swaps per day, accommodating up to 13 batteries charged from 40 kW to 80 kW in a manner that is both grid- and battery-friendly, avoiding typical grid peaks. This system represents the latest generation of NIO's product, holding up to 13 batteries and supporting automatic vehicle parking​​.

And for those that cannot reach one of the 27 swapping stations operated in Europe today, there is still the ‘normal’ charging option in every NIO vehicle. Here we charged on our drive to Switzerland, next to a BMW i7 on the outskirts of Memmingen. Charging speed was fine with a nice 110 kW between 10 and up to 60 percent at this HPC charger from EnBW.