Did Tesla give up on the swappable EV battery idea?

Will Nio revive the battery swapping idea for good and fulfil what the leading EV OEM Tesla couldn’t do? How will this model look for operators and users?

We’ve already seen the sleek and smooth process of battery swapping developed by one of the latest pure-play electric vehicle (EV) makers—Nio

The company released a solution into the world that will allow Nio drivers to stop and swap their batteries for fully charged ones in a bid to reduce the wait times for EV charging and cure the range anxiety plague that remains rife in the industry. 

The solution seeks to welcome Nio drivers to be automatically driven, by the car, into the battery swapping station and have theirs replaced from underneath the vehicle with a fully charged one. 

The question here is, how did Nio get it to work before Tesla

A leading EV maker dropped the battery swap

The leading OEM has previously developed solutions to allow customers to swap their Tesla batteries much like the process that Nio has followed for its vehicles. 

In 2013, Tesla was working on a solution for its Model S, which was pushed to one side just a year later as the company prioritised some of its other projects at the time. Most likely the company was focused on its plans to expand upon its California operations, building out a secondary factory in Nevada.

Needless to say the company’s efforts to expand its Supercharger network took precedence over its battery swapping ventures, making it more lucrative to leave the battery swapper behind. At the time of the expansion, the idea of creating an entirely new solution for the market wasn’t yet feasible, considering the company had already developed upon some major milestones at that time. 

Operating on the cost of charging via a plug-in battery charger was much more lucrative for the company as opposed to rolling out its more advanced technologies. The only remnants of the idea can be seen in Harris Ranch, California, where the one and only battery swapping station is located.

Nio brings EV battery swapping back to life

The main innovation that Nio is known for is battery swapping, adding a new level of flexibility to electrification, but is it an effective solution for all cars? 

The company has installed around 1,100 ‘Power Swap Stations’ with the majority of them located across China. Nio also has plans to deliver 4,000 of them by the end of 2025. 

Firstly, there is the element of infrastructure development. The automotive industry has already influenced the demands for millions of public charging points and the idea to fit service stations with swapping facilities looks like one of mass infrastructure development and heavy costs incurred by operators. 

How this model would work on a larger scale is yet to be known, but the costs of installation are likely to raise the prices that customers incur down the line, which fits with the element of faster charging equaling higher prices. 

Aside from this, will there be any insurance implications involved in this process? With parts moving from one vehicle to another, regulators and insurance providers will be presented with the task of tracing all of the batteries, analysing their conditions, which may cause issues among consumers looking to make a battery-related claim. 

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