Battery-swap sector ramps up as NEV owners seek alternative
China Daily

A Nio SUV is ready to get its battery swapped for a fully charged one at a Nio battery swapping station in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province. [PHOTO: CHINA DAILY]

Industry website says sales of compatible vehicles are up 54 percent in the first four months this year

A growing number of companies are moving into the battery swapping segment with new models and services. The companies vow to offer electric car owners a quicker and easier way to dispel their anxiety over mileage restrictions.

Getting electric vehicles fully charged usually takes hours, while empty batteries can be swapped for full ones in just minutes. Thus, battery swapping has become a major alternative to charging pillars.

Dozens of models, from carmakers including Nio, BAIC and FAW, are now capable of battery swapping.

Their combined sales in the first four months this year reached 42,000 units, up 54 percent year-on-year, according to battery website GG-LB.

Livan Automotive said last week that it is planning to launch at least six battery swapping EVs in three years. The carmaker already has two such models in the market.

Its latest model, a compact coupe SUV called RL 7, makes its debut at an ongoing auto show in Chongqing, where the carmaker is headquartered, and production will start in 2023.

Lou Yuanfa, Livan's chairman and CEO, said the carmaker is dedicated to battery swapping, which he believes holds the key to the future of the EV segment.

Livan also unveiled its battery swapping architecture last week. The architecture consists of a complete vehicle platform, a battery swapping power supply platform and a cloud-based big data platform.

The architecture adopts a unified battery that offers different packs ranging from 50 kilowatt-hours to 100 kWh.

Vice-president Yang Quankai said the battery has been proven to support 2,500 charge-discharge cycles, which allows a car to drive up to 800,000 kilometers over a span of eight years.

By the end of this year, Livan is expected to have over 200 battery swapping stations in the country.

A number of companies including CATL, Nio and BAIC have also explored the battery swapping segment.

Nio, a New York-listed EV startup, has built more than 900 stations for battery swapping vehicles.

Guo Dongqiang, a Nio ES6 owner in Beijing, said he has yet to charge his vehicle since buying it in late 2020.

"There is a power station near my apartment and I always get the batteries swapped, which is a pretty fast process," Guo said.

Nio plans to set up more than 1,300 battery-swap stations by the end of this year and add 600 more stations annually between 2022-25 in China, it said.

Unlike Nio, BAIC's battery swapping models are mostly taxis. They spend time on the road so charging is not an optimum choice, the carmaker said.

Aulton, China's largest battery swapping company, plans to build 10,000 stations that could serve more than 10 million EVs by 2025.

The company's stations are compatible with nine EV models from seven volume automakers.