we visited the automatic battery change station!

On the sidelines of testing China’s Nio ES8 electric SUV, Maxime Fontagnier wanted to know how batteries are changed at a station opened by the manufacturer earlier in the year in Norway.

already in France in the 1990s.

If Better Place brought the battery-swapping scene to the fore ten years ago and ultimately failed miserably, the idea was already in the air long before in France.

Former Mobil’Eco President and Bordeaux Urban Community Vehicle Fleet Service Engineer Christian Lucas admitted to me at the time that he worked in power plants to drive 20-ton electric trucks in 2 hours to 8 hours.

In 5 minutes, 2 lead packs, which became low-energy and weighing 2250 kg each, were replaced by previously recharged units. To demonstrate the usefulness of this technology, one of these heavy vehicles, equipped with 16 tons of logistics, traveled 951 km in less than a day. It was September 30, 1997.

Together with 4 colleagues as passionate as he is, he adapted this transportable infrastructure to a small fleet of 3 Volta light trucks. No continuation.

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From Better Place to Nio Power Replacement Station

Roughly fifteen years later, Renault joined forces with Better Place to develop a network of battery replacement stations in Israel, with expansion in other countries. The role of the French manufacturer was mainly to create a compatible electric vehicle.

The Fluence sedan, belonging to the ZE family, which also spawned the Zoé, Twizy and several fancy SUVs, has been adapted. Under the name ” Quik Drop “The system consisted of a robotic arm that picked up a dead battery and lifted a battery full of energy into its place. The vehicle had to be placed in a specific location on a secure platform. With the demonstrator introduced in 2009 in Japan, the operation took only 2 minutes.

In general, the solution developed by Nio is very similar. However, with a significant difference: the Chinese cars of the brand are completely autonomously positioned in the Power Swap Station and exit it in the same way. As we can see in the video shot by Maxime Fontagnier.

Big success in China

If the failure of the Better Place program then convinced many automotive specialists, French electric motorists and other countries that the battery swap was a dead end, then in China the situation is quite different. The government is encouraging the launch of electric vehicle and truck brands.

The country’s taxi drivers prefer a system that saves them a lot of time compared to traditional recharging. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) is implementing a pilot project to expand battery sharing across a vast area until 2035.

The challenge is no longer so much to change sets of packages as it is to harmonize existing systems. Nio is participating in a national plan to install over 1,000 new dedicated stations. At the end of last year, there were already the same number of them, 150,000 cars of 200 different models visited.

Up to 312 trades per day

In May 2018, Nio opened in Shenzhen, China’s Nanchang district, its first fully automated battery change station for the ES8, an electric SUV that Maxime Fontagnier had just tested in Oslo. At the beginning of 2021, the manufacturer introduced its Power Swap Station 2.0.

This is a copy of the new generation infrastructure that we discovered in Norway. It is the first in the country, and therefore in Europe. It was officially put into service near Drammen, about forty kilometers from Oslo, last January.

Of the 14 slots, 13 hold fully charged or rechargeable batteries recovered from previous exchanges. The fourteenth is used to get the compatible electric vehicle package that comes with the platform. According to the Chinese manufacturer, with a 24-hour opening, up to 312 packages per day and per establishment could be replaced. That is a little less than 5 minutes for the operation.

At the end of June last year, there were 1,000 exchange stations in the Nio network, including 250 new ones since the beginning of this year 2022. To date, they have committed over 10 million cumulative swaps.

20 stations in Norway by the end of 2022

Visited by our video journalist, this station near Drammen, more specifically located in Lier, currently has limited opening hours: from 7:00 to 22:00. At the same time, while maintaining the same pace, it could take up to 195 Nio electric vehicles per day during business hours.

After the launch phase, which requires the presence of a technician to initiate reloading and manage operations, the facility will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. ” In one or two months, this station should become fully autonomous. confirms Maxime Fontanier. At the beginning of the year, the manufacturer announced the opening of about twenty such stations in Norway by the end of the year.

In the images collected by the man in the hat, you can see that at first the body of the ES8 is raised. However, all 4 wheels remain on the ground thanks to the long-travel air suspension. Approximately 2 minutes 40 seconds after the start of the process, a 100 kWh ES8 package is delayed.

The electric SUV returned to the lower position, and the two doors of the interchangeable platform closed. Quickly behind, the car rises again and the hatch opens. A special fastening system guarantees the correct fixation of the interchangeable bags. The car is ready for work again in 4 minutes 23 seconds.

After Tesla Model X

The couple interviewed by Maxime Fontagnier at the Lier station owned a Tesla Model X for 5 years before being seduced by Chinese rival Nio ES8 in October 2021.” I love this car! the driver said. ” More than 20,000 km on the clock “, as well as ” no problem “, – he reported. Criticism of his new car compared to his previous American SUV? ” Nobody ! “.

With the money he made from selling his Model X, he was able to buy a new Nio ES8. However, he decided to rent a battery, encouraged by the brand. This offer is called Battery as a service can reduce the bill by about 17.5%, or about 20,000 euros for a surveyed Norwegian who opted for a 100 kWh package.

On the other hand, he pays almost 200 euros for rent. This amount includes 6 battery replacements and 600 kWh of charging at DC Nio fast terminals each month.

During his test, our specialist journalist observed an average range of about 430 km with a 100 kWh battery. A monthly credit of 1,200 kWh (6 replacements + 6 recharges) means over 5,000 km combined. This is more than enough for Tomasz and his wife, who plan to drive their ES8 no more than 40,000 km per year.

120 kW charging power

The Norwegian electric motorist estimates the maximum charging power of his Chinese SUV at 120kW. But with a curve that stays high for longer than its old Tesla Model X. As a result, even higher consumption for an American SUV, however, in a relatively short period.” charging time is the same “, he appreciated.

And you, dear readers, what do you think about the battery swap, which Nio promises will expand to other European countries in the near future?

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