Nio & CATL to develop longer-lasting batteries for swapping systems

Nio has signed a new cooperation agreement with its battery supplier CATL to develop longer-lasting electric car batteries for Nio's battery replacement requirements. The aim is for the battery to retain 85 per cent of its capacity after 15 years.

Nio is aiming for a service life of 15 years, with 85 per cent of the original capacity still being available at the end of the service life. Nio has confirmed the signing of the framework agreement on social media, but has not provided any further details. However, they can be found in various media.

CATL has developed a number of technologies to extend the service life of vehicle batteries, such as a self-repairing SEI (Solid Electrolyte Interphase) film and special additives. Nio, on the other hand, has developed an intelligent battery cloud system to optimise battery management for a longer service life. Officially, this project is part of efforts to reduce the overall costs of electric vehicles.

In the case of Nio, it could primarily reduce costs for the company itself: with the manufacturer’s battery swap system, the batteries remain the property of the company – users simply pay a monthly battery rental fee in return for access to the swap batteries. If these last longer, Nio has to replace them less often. However, Nio has already announced that it will also pass on these lower costs to its customers – the monthly fees are set to fall by up to 33 per cent.

Nevertheless, Nio founder and CEO William Li is focussing on the big picture. “One of the most important problems that has fundamentally not been solved nor attracted widespread attention is battery life,” Li told reporters in Beijing, according to Reuters. “This is not only a problem that Nio needs to solve, but one that the whole industry must work together to solve.” According to Nio, with an eight-year battery warranty, warranties for around 20 million electric car batteries will expire between 2025 and 2032 in China alone.

Industry giant CATL has been Nio’s most important battery partner for years. As the CN EV Post writes, all batteries from Nio’s Power Swap System currently come from CATL – both the 75 kWh packs with LFP cells and the 100 kWh packs with NCM chemistry. Although Nio had ordered cells from the much smaller manufacturer CALB in 2023, these are not yet in use, according to the report. The five-year agreement signed at the beginning of 2023 also stipulated that CATL would remain Nio’s main supplier.

Nio is known for its high research and development expenditure (measured in terms of turnover), but announced in 2023 that it wanted to become profitable more quickly after the major investment by Abu Dhabi investor CYVN Holdings – by reducing staff and postponing long-term investments. However, Nio will continue to invest in the development of core technologies such as batteries.

According to CEO William Li, Nio currently operates 2,382 power swap stations and 21,652 charging stations – in both cases, the vast majority are located in China. A juicy detail: the charging business is already profitable, but the company is still losing money on battery swaps, according to Li. Nevertheless, Nio wants to hold on to it. This is because of the short duration of the exchange and the potential to use the stations as energy storage for grid stabilisation. If the empty batteries are charged slowly and gently in the stations, they should also last longer than those that have been subjected to heavier loads at the fast charger.


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