Chinese electric vehicle (EV) maker Nio has formed a partnership with state-owned Changan Automobile to build EVs equipped with battery swapping technology to ease drivers’ range anxiety.
The two companies will jointly design standards for swappable batteries, build and share their battery swapping networks and set up a venture focused on battery investments, Shanghai-based Nio said in a statement on Tuesday.
Nio’s battery swapping stations allow owners of the carmaker’s vehicles to quickly exchange a spent battery pack for a fully charged one.
As Nio pioneered battery swaps, it is ready to open up its know-how and infrastructure to the entire industry, Nio founder and CEO William Li said in the statement.
“Over the past five years, Nio has accumulated a lot of experience in research and development, construction and operation of battery swapping stations,” Li said.
Currently, Nio operates more than 2,100 battery swap stations across mainland China, which aim to alleviate EV drivers’ fears of batteries running out between charging stations.
Most of Nio’s stations can automatically navigate a car into proper position, with the battery swap taking about three minutes. The company launched its first battery swapping station in the southern mainland tech hub of Shenzhen in May 2018.
The carmaker reported sales of 2.35 million vehicles in 2022, an increase of 2 per cent year on year. Deliveries of EVs jumped 150 per cent to 271,240 units.
Based in southwest China’s Chongqing city, Changan is one of the mainland’s four largest state-owned carmaking giants. It has been aggressively developing EV business over the past years and plans to set up a plant in Thailand.
The company makes and sells battery-powered cars under thee Changan, Deepal and Avatr brands.
Nio’s sales rose 2.8 per cent month on month to 16,074 units in October, well short of its record of 20,462 units in July.
“If Nio were to attract more partners to share its battery swap system, it would not only create a new revenue source for the company, but could also increase the sales of its vehicles,” said Chen Jinzhu, CEO of consultancy Shanghai Mingliang Auto Service. “Motorists would eventually see Nio as a pioneer in bringing an efficient energy solution to the EV industry.”
In September, Nio launched a smartphone designed specifically for use with a car. The device offers more than 30 car-specific features, such as initiating self-parking mode, unlocking the car with the press of a button even if the smartphone is powered off, and transitioning a video call from the phone to the car’s screen and speakers.
Separately, Stellantis said on Tuesday it plans to build an EV battery plant with China’s CATL in Europe, its fourth in the region, as the European carmaker seeks to make cheaper batteries and more affordable EVs.
The two companies announced a preliminary agreement for the supply of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery cells and modules for the carmaker’s EV production in Europe and said they were also considering setting up a 50-50 joint venture in the region.
The joint venture plan with CATL is aimed at building a new gigafactory in Europe to make LFP batteries, said Maxime Picat, the global head of purchasing and supply chain at Stellantis.
Discussions were continuing with CATL and a few more months were needed to finalise the plan, Picat said, declining to provide details about the possible location of the new battery facility.
It would be CATL’s latest investment in the region, as it expands outside its home market.
Additional reporting by Reuters