OSLO — Nio is open to sharing its battery swapping platform to other automakers, the head of the Chinese company’s European operations said.
The EV startup launched in Norway last year ahead of a broader rollout across Europe, including Germany, starting in the fourth quarter this year.
Battery swapping stations let owners replace a spent battery for a full one in around five minutes. Nio opened its first battery swap station in Norway in January and aims to install 20 in the country.
Hui Zhang, managing director of Nio in Europe, told journalists at an event held in Norway last week the company wasin talks with automakers without naming them.
When asked to clarify whether sharing meant licensing or another type of business agreement, the company declined to provided addition details.
Nio has so far built 868 swap stations in China and claims its customers have swapped batteries 7.6 million times.
The company has touted battery swapping as a unique selling point for the brand’s premium SUVs and forthcoming sedan range and selling the battery swap platform would be the equivalent of Tesla’s recent decision to allow other brands to use its Supercharger network.
Battery swapping is much faster than charging but the cost to install the network is much higher. A study published last year by The Swedish Transport Administration looking at battery swapping quoted Nio-sourced figures saying each swap station costs $772,000 (699,000 euros) to build in China, including batteries and site leasing, compared to $309,112 for a bank of charge points.
Nio said it is looking to reduce build costs for the swap stations, which currently have the capacity to store 13 batteries.
Licensing its platform to another automaker could increase the utilization rate of the swap stations, making them more cost effective.
One possible customer is Geely-owned Lotus Technology, the Chinese “lifestyle” division of the British sports car maker, in which Nio has an investment via its venture capital arm.
Geely has its own plans to set up 5,000 battery swapping stations for electric vehicles globally by 2025. It has not said whether it would create its own platform.
The Chinese government has been supporting the rollout of swap stations in the country. In a sign of this, Beijing has given Nio exemptions from a policy that dropped EV purchase incentives for premium-priced vehicles.
China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) last year published the global auto industry’s first standards for battery swapping technology aimed at encouraging wider adoption of the practice.
Nearly all customers of the ES8 SUV that Nio launched in Norway have opted to lease the battery separately, which gives access to swapping stations, Nio said.
Two free swaps are included a month in the battery lease fee. Customers can opt to switch between paying more for the 100-kilowatt-hour battery or the cheaper 75 kWh battery, which arrives later this year.
Nio will expand into Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany later this year.
Nio’s launch model in Germany will be the ET7 sedan, an electric rival to the BMW 7 Series, which also comes with battery swapping technology.