NIO power swap station
Beth Twigg

Beth Twigg

Beth is our Content and Paid Media Specialist, tasked with creating great articles to keep you both entertained and informed. She has two years previous experience, but has been writing and scribbling for much longer.

Read time of 5 minutes.

Meet Chinese electric vehicle disrupter NIO  

Not content with just bringing new electric cars to market, NIO have set their sights higher: they’re coming to change the way we charge our cars.  

Founded in 2014 under the name ‘NextEV’, Chinese car manufacturer NIO is one of the latest brands in a long line of disrupters to tackle the electric vehicle world.  

Though you might not have heard of NIO, you might’ve heard of their moderately successful Formula E team, or the very first car the brand ever produced: the EP9 supercar.  

With its four motors able to produce a total of 1,341bhp (more than a Bugatti Veyron), the NIO EP9 could hit 60mph in a measly 2.7 seconds. And, back in 2017, it made headlines for being the fastest EV around the Nurburgring – though this wasn’t exactly the hardest record to beat. 

Since then, NIO has been focused on mass-market electric vehicles with a difference.

Imagine a world where you could get your car from flat to full, in five minutes, without ever having to leave the comfort of your seat. 

Using a battery format called CSU (chargeable, swappable, upgradeable), NIO has achieved this world. And though it sounds a little futuristic, this is technology that’s available to customers in several countries right now. 

Having launched in Norway, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden (as well as its native China) already, NIO has confirmed that the UK launch will be happening next year – it won’t be long until you can get behind the wheel of your very own NIO lease. 

NIO EP9

NIO EP9

NIO’s Power Swap Stations

But what does this CSU format mean for you?

It means that, essentially, as well as being able to charge your car the ‘old-fashioned’ way (plug it in, wait for a bit, drive away), you’ll be able to take advantage of NIO’s Power Swap Stations (PSS). 

These look a little bit like double garages. But they’re double garages with the ability to remove the battery from your car and replace it with a freshly juiced one without you ever having to leave the comfort of your warm car seat.

Each station holds a maximum of 14 battery packs, and can charge them at speeds of up to 100kW each, so it never really takes long for each flat pack to be ready to go again. And with NIO bringing its next-gen, more automated swap stations to Europe, you’ll be able to request a battery in advance through the car when you’re heading to a PSS.

The first European swap station opened in Norway, while Germany got its first back in September 2022 in Zusmarshausen, with a second in Berlin nearing completion. 

To use the station, you simply park up in the designated spot and press the touchscreen icon to start the swap. The car will position itself above the automated tools that remove the old battery and fit the new one – with the whole process taking around five minutes. 

NIO power swap station

NIO's Power Swap Station

You couldn’t even finish a cup of coffee in that time without burning your tongue.

It’s small numbers over this side of the pond at the moment, but NIO are committed to this new way of charging electric cars and currently have over 1,047 PSS worldwide, with 11 million swaps completed. 

The company plans to build 120 of these stations in Europe by the end of 2023, with the UK’s first Power Swap Station thought to be opening in Oxford – though this hasn’t yet been confirmed.

And by 2025, NIO plans to have over 4,000 battery swap stations available across the globe. 

But the speed of the swap isn’t its only draw for customers. As part of NIO’s ‘Battery as a Service’ system, the company can make its cars much more affordable by treating the batteries as a separate unit.

You can either opt for a car with a battery, or pay a few grand less and rent the battery for your car instead. 

NIO ET7

NIO ET7

It means that NIO can make its cars look like a very competitive – and very attractive – alternative to the equivalent Tesla.

And of course, with swappable batteries, it doesn’t matter how big the battery is. It still takes the same amount of time to swap out a 75kWh pack as it does a 100kWh pack.

This also gives you a degree of flexibility.

Day-to-day, you can opt for the smaller battery and make the car lighter. But if you’re heading off on a long journey and the mileage is your main concern, simply swap to the bigger pack for increased range and decreased anxiety.

Sounds pretty smart, right?

NIO ES8

NIO ES8

The NIO House

NIO have wanted to launch their cars in the UK for a while – the company opened the London office on the day they launched, and run their Advanced Performance team in Oxford. But the launch has been delayed because we like to drive on the left.

There’s not long to wait now.

NIO will launch in the UK next year with the compact NIO ET5, though founder and CEO William Li hasn’t confirmed which – if any – of its other models will launch at the same time.

The company will also open one of its signature NIO House showrooms in London. These aren’t just spaces to display their very nice cars: NIO are trying to make driving its cars feel more like a private members club.

Following the same pattern as NIO Houses in China, Norway, and Germany, you’ll be able to use the space to hang out in, with a café, library and hot-desking area all available. 

But even if you don’t take advantage of the NIO House, the cars themselves are very good. 

NIO ET5

NIO ET5

NIO ET5

Described by the brand as a ‘second living room on wheels,' the NIO ET5 is a compact version of the luxury NIO ET7 saloon. 

There’s a definite focus on the premium finish inside, with the recycled and sustainable materials used giving the interior a plush and relaxing feel. It’s a space where you’d be more than happy to while away the hours, with the panoramic sunroof letting in plenty of natural light, and the Dolby Atmos surround sound system providing the soundtrack. 

The touchscreen is mounted into the dash, and the tech is – as expected – up-to-date and intuitive. It looks more restrained than some rivals, but this gives the ET5 a classy, high-end finish.

It’s impressively quick too, with the ability to hit 62mph in around 4 seconds.

With plenty of driver aids and safety tech, and – of course – the ability to swap out the battery when needed, the NIO ET5 represents a very good start for the brand in the UK and offers a decent rival to popular EVs like the Tesla Model 3 and the Polestar 2

If you’ll be eyeing up a new electric car lease in the new year, it’s worth keeping NIO in mind.

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