Electric vehicle battery swapping is a concept that has become widespread in China after EV startup Nio pioneered it and battery giant CATL adopted it. Nio has exported its battery swapping stations outside its borders as well, mainly in Europe.
As of October 26, Nio had 2,000 Power Swap Stations in China and 27 in Europe, with plans for rapid growth in the following months.
The idea is simple: instead of waiting half an hour or more to charge your EV’s battery to 80 percent SOC at a DC fast charging station, you can have your battery swapped with a fully charged one at a Nio Power Swap Station in only three to five minutes.
It sounds great in theory, but what does a battery swapping session look like in real life? And how hard is it to schedule and complete one?
A Nio EL7 driver from Oslo, Norway, documented the entire experience on video and posted it on her TikTok account (@iamstine), garnering almost 3,300 comments from curious viewers.
While videos of battery swapping sessions at Nio stations have been shared before, this one is interesting because it’s shot from the driver’s point of view, showing what the experience looks like from behind the wheel.
It all starts with the driver issuing a voice command (“I want to swap battery”), with the navigation system then returning suggestions for the closest battery swapping stations. After the user selects one and places an order for battery swapping, the car starts the navigation to the station.
Upon reaching the destination, if the station is ready to receive a vehicle, the driver is instructed to place the car in the “Start Area” marked as a parking spot on the asphalt.
From then onward, all the driver has to do is press a “Start Parking” button on the center screen, and the car will do the rest, backing into the station and then prompting the driver to start the battery swapping process.
The driver is instructed that opening any door, shifting gears, or pressing the brake pedal will terminate the process. In addition, the climate control system will be disabled during the process, so drivers are informed that they can adjust the windows as needed before the actual battery swapping starts.
What happens after the driver presses the “Start Power Swap” button is a bit eerie because everything shuts down in the car—bar the AI-powered Nomi car assistant whose “eyes” continue to glow in the dark. The vehicle rattles, and thumping noises are heard from underneath the floor. After that, the dashboard lights up again and the Nio EV is good to go.
Nio says that every 1.4 seconds, a car departs from one of its more than 2,000 Power Swap Stations with its battery fully charged. The Third Generation Power Swap Station, which entered service in April 2023, is capable of 408 swaps per day.
The battery swapping service is enabled by Nio’s flexible Battery-as-a-Service (BaaS), which uncouples the cost, maintenance, and upgradability of batteries from the overall vehicle costs. This makes EV ownership more appealing for some people—in Norway, for example, approximately 95% of users opted for BaaS.
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