Full-electric car sales are on the rise in Europe, but two big factors still cast a shadow over their future success: high sticker prices and long charging times.
Prices will hopefully come down as battery costs decrease, but it's hard to imagine that charging an EV will ever be as quick as filling a tank with gasoline or diesel fuel. That is a big problem for some people.
I have always believed that battery swapping is the answer to this obstacle ever since Better Place tried to introduce the technology back in 2008 under a partnership with Renault-Nissan. Sadly this attempt failed, due in part to low interest in the service.
Now, Chinese EV maker Nio has said that it will enter the European market next year, bringing with it its battery-swapping technology and the hope that once again exchanging batteries could be an alternative to lengthy charging.
Nio currently has 143 battery-swapping stations in China, where drivers can exchange spent battery packs for fully charged replacements. The automaker plans to build 300 new stations there next year.
Nio has said that it intends to take this technology to more markets, including Europe, and is "open to cooperating with other brands and companies."
With China's industry ministry also saying it will promote the adoption of vehicles with batteries that can be swapped between different makes and models, there is now a real hope that this idea might eventually also get a second chance in Europe.
After all, even the fastest commercial charger will not currently charge a battery in under half an hour and most EVs offer much smaller ranges than their combustion-engine counterparts.
To give you an example; every year I drive 730 km on vacation without once needing to refuel my diesel-powered VW Touran minivan.
If I made that journey in one of the newest EVs on the market, the Opel Corsa-e, I would need to stop three times to charge a battery that needs 30 minutes to reach 80 percent of its capacity, even when using a direct current fast charger.
That would add at least another 90 minutes to my journey.
However, if I was swapping out batteries it would simply be a matter of seconds.