As the proliferation of electric vehicles (EVs) on UK roads continues, it is fair to say that charging remains an ongoing challenge. From the number of chargers available, to how to charge EVs outside of a driveway (read: flats, terraced houses etc.), to the time taken to charge the battery, there are various downsides associated with existing charging solutions. But, what if, rather than charging a ‘fixed’ battery, a drained battery could be swapped out for a fully-charged battery? Enter: swap stations.
Swap stations are not commonplace in the UK, but swap stations could overcome all of the aforementioned disadvantages. Drive into a swap station with a partially drained battery, and within 5 minutes the drained battery has been removed, and replaced with a fully charged battery, and you drive away. The drained battery is then charged in the swap station, ready to be swapped into another EV once fully charged. See also 1:30 onwards of this clip.
Chinese EV brand Nio has recently launched a third generation of swap station in China, with Nio having at least 1300 total swap stations in China (having completed more than 20 million swaps). Nio claims >56% of charging for Nio EVs now occurs through battery swaps. The third generation swap station can store 21 batteries, and those batteries can be charged at times when the cost of electricity is lower. Nio's swap station offering is named Power Swap Station.
Also interesting is that, as noted by the article, ‘battery as a service’ BaaS, a lease-style arrangement that allows users to swap batteries, provides a recurring revenue stream for Nio (at least in Europe). This is a requirement for users to utilise the swap station facilities (e.g. as opposed to users ‘owning’ the battery per typical EVs).
Nio claims the technology is covered by 1600 related patents, perhaps not surprising given the perceived value of the technology and innovation associated with swap stations.
Previous generation swap stations are live in China and Europe, with Norway, the Netherlands and Germany being early adopters in Europe. That said, with 13 power swap stations across these markets, the technology is far from mainstream. It is expected that Nio swap stations will reach the UK this year, so watch this space!