Battery Swaps for EVs: Silly or Solution?

Article Highlights: 

  • In countries like Norway, electric vehicle (EV) battery swaps are gaining popularity.
  • The Chinese automaker NIO has several battery-swapping stations in Norway, hundreds operating in China, and their sights set on Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
  • Depending on the country, the concept could save EV motorists time, money, and range anxiety. 

Can electric car batteries be swapped?

Battery swaps for evs like NIO cars silly or solution
A NIO station | Jin Zheming, Getty Images

Yes, electric car batteries can be swapped out just like an oil filter or a starter motor on a gas-powered car. However, some cars are more receptive to battery swapping, like many of the cars designed and imported into Europe by Chinese manufacturer NIO. 

With the NIO applications in Europe and China, owners simply drive up to a station, and the car autonomously pilots itself into a swapping bay. From there, the battery is automatically swapped, and the driver can get back on the road. 

How long does it take to swap a battery?

According to the BBC, a NIO battery swap takes less than five minutes. The driver sits in the car while an apparatus of robotic appendages remove and replace the entire battery pack. Then the operator simply pulls out and leaves with an entirely new battery. In the Norwegian model, owners simply check in on an app and use the service. 

Battery swaps for evs like NIO cars silly or solution
A NIO EV | Getty Images

How much does it cost? 

In the Norwegian model, consumers buy the NIO EV and lease the battery. That sounds bizarre, but there is some method behind the madness. First, Norwegian EV shoppers can avoid paying for the battery in the initial purchase. That is helpful since the batteries are some of the most expensive components of EVs, so Norwegian customers who swap batteries can expect to save nearly $10,000. 

Next, for a few hundred dollars, consumers lease the battery, which they then change out at a station. One of the biggest benefits of the Norwegian leasing model is that owners don’t have to worry about battery degradation, or keeping up with the latest battery technology. Instead, they simply change out their discharged batteries and get back on the road. 

Can you swap out a Tesla battery?

Yes, you can swap out a Tesla battery. However, Tesla is adamant that battery swapping as a regular practice is problematic and won’t scale to widespread use. Tesla experimented with the concept briefly but abandoned it. Specifically, According to Electrek, Tesla was targeting NIO with its rejection of battery swapping practices. Still, Tesla owners can change out their power packs when they choose to, albeit expensively.

Will the practice take hold in the US?

Although the practice is popular in Norway and well-established in China, it likely won’t take hold in the United States. Additionally, BBC reports that European automotive analysts like Matthias Schmidt don’t see the practice being effective in Europe either. Schmidt cites the focus on fast-charging technologies to be the reason for swapping not succeeding. “The rollout of a fast-charging network on motorways will be key going forward now,” said Schmidt. 

If you want to read more about some considerations before buying an EV, scroll down to the following article. 

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