Nio plans to add 3,700 battery stations by 2025 in world’s largest auto market

Nio Inc. plans to add at least 3,700 battery-swap stations by the end of 2025 as it seeks to further the adoption of electric cars in the world’s largest auto market.

The Chinese electric-vehicle manufacturer has so far built around 300 battery-swap stations — places where drivers can go to quickly get their car battery swapped out for a fresh one rather than waiting for it to re-charge. Having now sold around 120,000 EVs, Nio will make offering more charging stations a priority, President and co-founder Qin Lihong told a media briefing in Shanghai on Friday to mark Nio’s inaugural Power Day.

Range anxiety has been a major hurdle in EV uptake, particularly in a country like China where distances can be vast. Rival Tesla Inc. has built more than 850 so-called supercharging, or fast charging, stations and 6,500 charging piles in China.

Nio is also working on building more charging stations and mobile battery charging vehicles, said Shen Fei, Nio’s vice president of power management. In 2018, the company established a team of people who work as charging personnel, fetching and returning customers’ cars as needed.

Nio delivered 8,083 EVs last month and 21,896 cars for the three months ended June 30, a 112 percent increase year-on-year. The Shanghai-based group is also entering the European market with a presence in Norway and shipped its first batch of battery-swap stations there this week. Around 1,000 of the some 4,000 planned battery-swap stations by 2025 will be installed outside of China, Qin said.

The automaker’s current models all have the option of coming with a “battery-as-a-service” plan, whereby customers buy the car but lease the battery. In this way, buyers can keep up-to-date with battery technology as it improves.

But even that cost-saving measure is coming under pressure. Tesla on Thursday debuted a significantly cheaper version of its locally built Model Y crossover that starts at just 276,000 yuan ($42,600) after government subsidies. By way of comparison, Nio’s ES6 crossover, which competes head-to-head with the Model Y, starts from 358,000 yuan.

Sales of new-energy vehicles in China, which include plug-in hybrids, increased 170 percent year-on-year in June, data from China’s Passenger Car Association show. For the first half, NEV wholesale deliveries totaled 1.09 million while retail sales were around 1 million, a rate that prompted PCA Secretary General Cui Dongshu to describe the body’s NEV full-year sales target of 2.4 million “conservative.”

Nio’s U.S.-listed shares fell 1 percent in trading Thursday, bringing declines for the year to 6.4 percent. They surged more than 1,000 percent in 2020. Nio is also considering a listing on Hong Kong’s stock market, where competitor Xpeng Inc. debuted earlier this week.

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