SHANGHAI -- Chinese electric-car startup Nio is looking to grab a share of Europe’s growing market for electric vehicles by rolling out a battery leasing and swapping network to cut costs for users, its co-founder, Qin Lihong, told Reuters.
Nio plans to build 1,000 battery swapping stations outside China by 2025, most of them in Europe, to service the expanded range of EVs it will begin selling this year in Germany and other markets, said Lihong, who is also Nio’s president.
"We are comprehensively ahead of our competitors in terms of products and services," Qin said in a telephone interview from Germany on Tuesday.
"It’s true there will be more EV models to be launched in Europe in three years, but we are also making more progress."
Over the past year, Nio has been experimenting with battery leasing and swapping in Norway for its ES8, an electric-drive SUV. The company has sold 800 of the SUVs and installed two swapping stations in Norway, executives said. Nio will roll out other models in Europe, including the ET7 and ET5 sedans, starting this year.
Nio opened its first overseas plant in Hungary this month to make power products such as battery swapping stations, which are costly to ship from China because of their size, Qin said.
At the heart of Nio's move to woo European car buyers is separating the battery – the most expensive component of the EV – from ownership to reduce up-front costs.
Nio’s battery swap stations also promise to send drivers out with a new, fully charged battery in just a few minutes, faster than current charging alternatives.
The strategy has set Nio off from rivals in China’s EV market but shifts costs – and risk – to the company, one reason why most established automakers have sought other ways to cut battery costs and boost charging efficiency.