Nio Power Swap Station: does it work? | CAR Magazine

Nio Power Swap Station: does it work?

Published: 01 June 2022 Updated: 01 June 2022

► Chinese EV brand comes to Europe
► It offers a unique charging solution
► Charge your battery… or swap it

Nio is an EV brand shaking up the car landscape. Having fully established itself in its home market of China, it’s entered the European market, starting last year in Norway – Europe’s keenest EV market. Moves into Sweden, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands will follow.

Don’t write it off as another Tesla clone, though. Nio is more than that, not least because of its Battery Swap Station, which introduces a different way of using an EV. It’s not a new idea, and has been tried by various people in the past, but Nio is the car company that’s making it work.

As well as the ability to plug in and charge the conventional way, you can go to one of Nio’s Battery Swap Stations, where your part-drained battery is taken out and replaced by a full one.

There are 867 such locations in China. The one we’re visiting in Lier, Norway (on a major commuter route between the port of Drammen and Oslo) is its 868th and its first in Europe. Nio is planning on opening 19 more in Norway by the end of the year.

It’s part of Nio’s ‘Battery as a Service’ system. You can buy the car with the battery pack installed at a normal price, and charge it in the normal way. Or you can buy the car for less and pay a monthly lease on the battery. Go for the latter option and, in the case of the ES8 SUV we’re driving in Norway, you’ll save around £8k on the list price and be allowed two free battery swaps – you pay for additional ones – and 200kW of free charging per month. Nio battery packs are either 75kWh or 100kWh.

Each station holds a maximum of 14 battery packs, kept between 18-25ºC, and can charge them at up to 100kW each. Each ‘fresh’ battery is at 90 per cent charge to maintain its long-term health.

In China, your car is parked in the bay for you by a real human. But in Europe we’re getting the next-generation, more automated, Swap Station.

You request a battery in advance through the car when navigating to the swap station, and it tells you if there’s a queue and when your turn is. You park in a designated spot, and when you press the touchscreen icon to start the swap the car positions itself above the automated tools that remove the battery from the underside of the car and fit the new one in around five minutes. If your car’s due a software update, that’ll be installed too. It’s all a very slick operation, and offers Nio a real USP.

Nio Power Swap Station: how it works

Order up
Need a new battery, fast? Set your nav to the station, order a new pack and get in the virtual queue

Square up
Park in a designated place in front of the station and let the car autonomously do the hard work

Pack up
After a few bumps and noises, the old battery is taken out and the other one’s inserted in less than six minutes

Nio Power Swap Station: does it work?

Yes. But, like charging in the conventional way, it’ll suit some people more than others, depending on their access to chargers, their proximity to a Battery Swap Station, and their typical mileage.

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, gamer, serial Lego-ist, lover of hot hatches