NIO's Battery Swap Network Is Turned Out to Be an Achievement in Ideal Conditions
COVID-19 and China

NIO Inc. (NYSE: NIO), the only listed EV maker startup recently launched its and the world's first ever battery swap network on G4 Expressway in China. The G4 Expressway is approximately 2,285 kilometers, and a major transit route running from Northern to Southern China, with another name “the Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau Expressway”.

With this battery swap network, NIO continuously trying to put the company’s belief, “to drive an NIO EV wherever fuel vehicles can arrive”, to proof. As part of the official announcement of battery swap network, NIO organized a road trip named “ES8 G4 Expressway Trip with Battery Swap Network”, and successfully arrived in Guangzhou far away from Beijing, in presence of 19 media and several ES8 owner representatives.

However, according to a recent driving test conducted by ZHANG Yanjun (张彦钧) and FENG Xiao (冯潇), journalists from an auto media named Ka Jia Che Ping (咖加车评) in China, proved NIO’s promotional slogan of “new way of charging, even more convenient than refueling (加油比加电更方便)” and claim of “fully charged in 3 mins” to be misleading, and “range anxiety” is still a problem of EV, at least for now.

In the article of Ka Jia Che Ping, the journalists drove from Beijing to Xinyang Service Station around the border of Henan Province and Hubei Province, and this 1800 km round trip, was finally proved to be a hard journey with several important bad experiences:

  • Fail to achieve the battery swap station:

The distances between different battery swap stations varied from 111 km to over 200 km, and the first station is actually 226 km from the starting point, which means the journalists cannot arrive with the maximum legal speed on the expressway. Therefore the journalists had to charge their ES8 once using the traditional charging pile before they arrived at the first battery swap station.

  • Recharging in 3mins is impossible:

3-4 mins charging time in NIO’s promotional article is actually only the time of battery swap, and it averagely cost the journalists 24 mins, including the time for preparation and closing processes.

  • The battery swap service is still unstable:

During the battery swap process, the vehicle was stuck on the shelf once, which wasted quite a lot of time. This bug was also mentioned by ES8 owners before in NIO official mobile app, and in that case, the owner finally had to leave the station with another spare ES8.

<b id = 2639 class=NIO ES8 was stuck on the shelf" height="312" src="" width="554" />

  • Poor user experiences:

In the expressway service area, the battery swap station is only deployed on one side. If the station is in the opposite service area of the driving direction, it is necessary to ensure that the vehicle and NIO Fellow are present at the same time, and the staff of the service area can be connected by NIO Fellow to help to open the gate for getting through to the opposite service area.

Getting through the tunnel to the opposite service area

And it is said that most of battery swap stations are deployed in the very corner area of the expressway service area, somehow like the position of Alaska in the US, which means owners always need to walk for a much longer distance for shopping or getting to the toilet than the fuel vehicle owners.

A conclusion seems can be made that NIO’s battery swap service turned out to be a pseudo-proposition. While even with all the negative information mentioned above, the battery swap network is actually still a better solution than the traditional charging piles.

The journalists ZHANG Yanjun and FENG Xiao did a comparative experiment, that they returned to Beijing completely with traditional charging piles. The trip from Beijing to Xinyang Service Area took 11 hrs 30 mins with 908 km range, the average speed was 78.8 km/h; the trip back to Beijing from Xinyang took 16 hours with an average speed of 65.8 km/h. And the estimated average speed of fuel vehicle would be 102 km/h under the same circumstances.

Thus, the conclusion should be, that ES8’s efficiency with battery swap service on the expressway is better than those with the traditional charging piles, while still has great gap compared with fuel vehicle.

P.S. During the experiment, the journalists try to follow the daily driving style as much as possible, which means to drive at the maximum speed permitted by law on the expressway, and they do not stop or rest in service areas except for the demand of energy supply.

- Author: ZHANG Fan; Original article in Chinese is written by ZHANG Yanjun and the photos were also cited from the original article. Write to ZHANG Fan at

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