In China, Tesla has so far had more competition in the electric car market than in Europe and especially in the US, and most other manufacturers are trying to attract customers in the lower price segments. An exception is the startup Nio, which tries to build a high-quality brand and also relies on special service. Nio offers a growing network of stations at which owners of their electric cars can have their batteries changed instead of being charged. Tesla has also had a service like this before. But when there were rumors in China that it could be reintroduced, there was a clear rejection from the management.
Tesla tested battery swaps early on
Today the Supercharger network is almost a matter of course for Tesla owners, but it first had to be designed and then implemented. Before that, the company Better Place, a former SAP board member, made a name for itself for a while, and instead wanted to set up a network of quick change stations; in 2013, however, it ended in bankruptcy. Nio, however, has taken up the change idea, which is also temporarily pursued by Tesla, and plans to operate 500 stations in China at the end of the year.
Tesla itself tested a switch station in California from the end of 2014, when the construction of the supercharger network had already started. According to reports from that time, a battery replacement on the Model S took seven minutes and cost around $ 80. The offer was temporarily sold out, but Tesla CEO Elon Musk said it would not be expanded. At the end of 2016, the test station was also no longer active, reported the blog Teslarati.
Nio in China was not deterred by the failure of Better Place or the abandoned test at Tesla. In 2014 the company built its first battery exchange station and in mid-2020 already reported 135 of them in 59 Chinese cities. This January, a new generation was introduced that is supposed to manage 312 exchanges per day, three times as many as the previous one.
Against this background, the report came at the end of February that Tesla had expanded its information on its business activities in China to include “sales of battery exchange stations”. According to the publication Cnevpost, the advantage of this is that electric cars with exchangeable batteries are exempt from a limit on the eligible sales price. So it was speculated that Tesla might have decided to reintroduce this option, at least in China.
“Fast electric car charging is best”
Initially, only anonymous sources denied these rumors, but last weekend, Grace Tao Lin, VP External Affairs, a high-ranking Tesla manager, officially spoke up. On the Weibo social platform, she thanked them for their interest and declared swap stations to be a good option in some areas such as taxis or buses. With private electric cars, however, Tesla has always been of the opinion that quick recharging is the best way.
Tao Lin recalled that in the past, replaceable batteries were the standard for many consumer electronics devices. Today, however, quickly rechargeable batteries are integrated into laptops and smartphones. Similarly, fast charging instead of changing is the best solution for electric cars, especially since Tesla superchargers are getting bigger and more powerful. According to the manager, there are now a good 6,000 individual supercharger columns in China, the number of locations is given on supercharge.info as 786. As of the end of February, Nio names 190 changeover stations and an additional 120 of its own locations for charging with up to 180 kilowatts, known as Power Chargers.