“We are open to selling the platform,” Hui Zhang, general manager of Nio in Europe, told reporters at an event in Norway last week. The company is in talks with automakers, Zhang added, without naming them.
Nio has so far built 868 swap stations in China and says its customers have swapped batteries 7.6 million times.
The company has pitched battery swapping as a unique selling point for the brand’s high-end SUVs and upcoming sedan range and selling the battery swapping platform would be the equivalent of the recent Tesla’s decision to allow other brands to use its Supercharger network.
Battery exchange is much faster than charging, but the grid installation cost is much higher. A study published last year by the Swedish Transport Administration on battery swapping cited figures from Nio indicating that each swap station costs $772,000 (699,000 euros) to build in China, including batteries and site rental, versus $309,112 for a bank of charging stations.
Nio said he was looking to reduce construction costs for the exchange stations, which currently have the capacity to store 13 batteries.
Licensing its platform to another automaker could increase the utilization rate of exchange stations, making them more profitable.
One possible client is Lotus Technology, owned by Geely, the Chinese “lifestyle” division of the British sports car maker, in which Nio has an investment through its venture capital arm.
Geely has its own plans to set up 5,000 electric vehicle battery swap stations globally by 2025, without creating its own platform to use the technology.
The Chinese government has supported the deployment of exchange stations in the country. As a sign of that, Beijing granted Nio exemptions from a policy that removed EV purchase incentives for high-end vehicles.
China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) released the world’s first auto industry standards for battery swapping technology last year aimed at encouraging wider adoption of the practice. .
Almost all customers of the ES8 SUV that Nio has launched in Norway have opted to rent the battery separately, which provides access to swap stations, Nio said.
Two free exchanges are included per month in the battery rental fee. Customers can choose to pay more for a 100 kWh battery or the cheaper 75 kWh battery, which will arrive later this year.
Nio will expand to 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 features battery swap technology.