Lotus joins NIO in working on swappable battery standard

NIO and Lotus found each other at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition to sign a strategic charging and battery swap technology partnership. According to a statement by NIO, the ultimate goal is to build a standard battery system and jointly develop passenger vehicles with a unified battery-swapping and fast-charging operational and management system.

Changan Automobile, Geely Holding, Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group (JAC), and Chery already partnered with Nio on battery swapping. Lotus Technology is 51% owned by Geely Holding, and Nio Capital from NIO founder and CEO William Li invested in the new Wuhan Lotus Technology in 2021. So, the joining of the former British sports brand doesn’t come as a surprise.

Swapping quite hot in China

Geely Holding entered the partnership in December of last year. Geely is one of China’s largest car companies, with well-known brands including Geely Auto, Zeekr, Lynk & Co, and Livan. It also controls European brands like Volvo, Polestar, and Lotus. It’s also one of Mercedes-Benz’s largest shareholders, with nearly 10%, and co-owns the new Smart EV brand.

In China, battery swapping is quite hot compared to the rest of the world as an alternative for fast charging, as it only takes three minutes for an NIO to swap an empty battery for a 100% charged one.

Controversial alternative

Still, with cheaper LFP batteries like CATL’s latest Chenxing promising ranges of up to 1,000 km and fast charging of 600 km in ten minutes, battery swapping remains controversial as an alternative as it requires a vast swapping infrastructure and a standardized battery connection and management system.

One significant benefit of swappable batteries is that they allow one to keep up with fast-evolving technologies. EV drivers can choose to rent the most up-to-date battery pack or switch to a larger pack for more range when temporarily needed instead of buying one.

So far, NIO is the one pushing battery swapping the most, with 2,404 Power Swap Stations across China and 3,776 charging stations, of which 1,422 are NIO Power Chargers. NIO has opened 35 European swap stations in Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany.

CATL into swapping, too

CATL, the world’s biggest battery maker, helped Nio develop its swappable batteries and has its own battery swapping service, along with a service for battery renting, commonly named under the flag of ‘Battery-as-a-Service’ (BaaS). It allows for cheaper EVs, as the battery remains the company’s property and is rented for a monthly fee, something NIO is proposing, too.

CATL signed up China’s FAW Motor as the first customer for its new Evogo battery swapping service and expects to extend it to other Chinese automakers. It told Reuters it was developing swapping services not only for China but “to meet the demand of global markets.”

China predicts sales of electric vehicles, so-called NEVs, will reach 7.8 million units in 2025, of which battery-swap models are expected to account for 30%. That might trigger a global movement in the future.

First standards

The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information (MIIT) released the global auto industry’s first standards for swapping technology last year. If the Chinese government decides to enforce battery standards, making swapping among brands a common thing, that could become a global game-changer.

Qingfeng Feng, CEO of Group Lotus, referred to this, saying: “As an important direction supported and encouraged by state policies, the innovations of battery swap and ‘vehicle-battery’ separation not only protect battery health and safety but also enable users to continuously enjoy the dividends of battery technology progress.”

“Our cooperation with NIO to share charging and swapping resources will allow our users to experience the track genes and ultimate performance of Lotus while enjoying the friendly services of NIO’s charging and swapping network across China.”


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