Since September this year, Chinese car companies have accelerated the construction of battery swap stations, while battery swap speeds are also competing to shorten.
On October 18, Geely landed its first battery swap demonstration station in Jinan which is similar to that of NIO's battery swap station. The entire battery swap process takes about 90 seconds, which is half of the three minutes required by NIO.
However, Geely's battery swap isn't the fastest.
On September 10, Changan New Energy's first battery swap station was inaugurated in Chongqing, claiming that the battery swap takes only 30 seconds, making it truly "faster than refueling gas".
"The 30-second extremely fast battery swap is also leading in the industry." Changan New Energy battery swap project manager said at the time.
In the field of automatic battery swap, most people's previous impressions may be only NIO, which is the most high-profile promoter of the battery swap model, and BAIC New Energy.
Due to the questionable business model, the battery swap model has been developing slowly. Now the sudden emergence of various players and speed competitions seems to have made the battery swap station set up from scratch not long ago.
But whether this means the battery swap mode has entered the windy period, the industry is still cautious to give an answer.
"We can't do it yet (90 seconds to complete a battery swap). But NIO is working on the second generation battery swap station, which is expected to be operational next year," the Economic Observer quoted an NIO insider as saying.
The new generation of the battery swap station will further optimize performance and user experience to provide more users with an easy and fast replenishment experience, the people said.
The faster speed of the Geely battery swap station is due to the fact that two robots are used in the battery swap process. After the old battery is removed by one robot, the new battery is immediately delivered by another robot from the other direction, reducing the waiting time. But this obviously also increases costs.
The NIO battery swap process currently has only one robot that takes out the old batteries and loads the new ones, with a slightly longer wait.
Changan New Energy also uses two robots, but the 30 seconds they claim is only from battery pick-up to battery loading, and the entire process from the time the vehicle enters the station to the time the battery is changed takes about a minute.
The battle for efficiency in the battery swap mode has started quickly, not only in the speed of battery swap, but also in the speed of building battery swap stations.
Geely is the most ambitious of the current car companies that have released plans to build stations, with plans to build 5,000 by 2025, covering the whole country and even Southeast Asia.
(Geely’s battery swap station in Chongqing)
Such speed is fast, considering that NIO took three years to lay out only 130 battery swap stations in 58 cities across the country.
According to Geely, so far, its number of contract battery swap stations in the country have exceed 1,000.
(Geely’s battery swap station in Chongqing)
However, it is worth noting that among NIO, BAIC New Energy, Changan New Energy and Geely, only NIO's battery swap stations are mainly for private customers, while the other three companies are currently providing battery swap stations to taxis and ride-sharing vehicles.
BAIC New Energy also partially serves the battery swap needs of individual users, and Geely has revealed that the battery swap station may be open to individual users in the future.
The efficiency competition between battery swap stations of private market-oriented car companies may become more obvious.
Another aspect of the competition in the battery swap model is the battle for market share.
Last month, when Changan New Energy's first battery swap station was completed, it was announced that through the partnership with CATL, the battery swap station will be compatible with the battery swap services of 7 car companies, including BAIC, GAC, SAIC, FAW Hongqi, Pentium and Dongfeng Qichen, Chang'an and JAC.
This means it will have more turnovers and profitability. At present, NIO, BAIC New Energy, etc. are still mainly serving this brand's models. However, it can be expected that as more car companies may shift to the battery swap model, the battery swap model of the standard controversy will also appear.
It is worth noting that the battery swap field is not only a new battlefield for car companies, but also for charging operators.
The company has been in the process of developing a new product, which will be used in a variety of applications, including a battery swap system.
The company's chairman, Shao Danwei, recently confirmed in a conference that it has entered into a strategic partnership with an electric vehicle startup in the battery swap sector.
This makes the role of infrastructure operators in the future battery swap market another question to consider.
The rapid entry of multiple players into the battery swap mode has been largely driven by policy guidance and incentives.
Last year, in China's new subsidy policy for new energy vehicles, products using the battery swap model were exempted from the rule that "products over RMB 300,000 are not eligible for subsidies", which was seen as an encouragement to the battery swap model.
Since then, the regulators have released many more news about promoting the application of battery swap mode. This year, battery swap stations were included in the government's work report for the first time as an important part of the new infrastructure.
However, despite the large number of entrants, the cost and profitability difficulties of the battery swap model still deter many capitalists.
For reference, some media estimated that the average operating cost of a battery swap station at NIO is 400,000 RMB.
Each battery swap station in the construction, approval, three phase investment of 400,000 RMB, staff costs per capita 150,000 RMB, each station according to 1.5 people, the field rent is calculated at 100,000 RMB per month, rough calculation NIO in the battery swap station business. The investment has exceeded 500 million RMB.
Previously, NIO launched a lifetime battery swap free service for car owners, which means that this investment is a net loss.
However, through the differentiated service of battery swap, NIO has also gained brand traffic and user word of mouth. According to NIO's data, as of October 5, the number of NIO battery swap services has accumulated more than one million times.
Recently, NIO announced an adjustment to its battery swap policy, stating that for those who pay the deposit from October 12, 2020, the unlimited free battery swap will be replaced by 6 free battery swaps per month.
For those who paid the deposit before October 12, they will still enjoy unlimited free lifetime battery swap service nationwide.
NIO explained the change as "an appropriate adjustment to the battery swap policy, taking into account factors such as business operating costs.
NIO said at the time, according to statistics, 6 times can cover more than 80% of the user replenishment needs.
In the industry's view, NIO's change in battery swap policy, indicating that NIO after gaining users, began to pay more attention to operational efficiency and profitability, especially in the overall market downturn, the capital market is not as hot as in the past.
It is worth noting that even with paid services, it is not easy for battery swap to achieve profitability.
Beijing Aulton, which mainly provides battery swap services for BAIC New Energy, has been operating in the battery swap field for four years. As of the end of last year, Beijing Aulton operated 41 battery swap stations in Beijing, providing fast and reliable service to about 4,000 vehicles. battery swap service.
However, the financial information disclosed when BAIC New Energy increased its capital in Aulton last year showed that Beijing Aulton's operating income from January to April 2019 was RMB 3,610,800,000, with a net loss of RMB 19,122,200,000.
Of the 300 or so battery swap stations Aulton has deployed across the country, only a few of the battery swap stations operating at full capacity have turned a profit.
With the difficulty of making a profit, new players such as Geely and Chang'an, who plan to quickly land a battery swap station, may have to prepare for losses in the early stages.
But the good news is that the regulatory authorities have begun to study the profitability of the battery swap model.
According to media reports, on October 20, the Ministry of industry and information technology equipment industry a department, the Ministry of Finance tax and other departments jointly in Beijing research new energy vehicles battery swap station, and new energy vehicles battery swap mode related fiscal issues discussed.
Based on this, industry insiders expect that the relevant departments may launch a subsidy policy for battery swap station in terms of fiscal and taxation in the future, to help alleviate the financial pressure on the construction and operation of battery swap station.