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Chinese EV maker Nio will let you buy its cars without a battery

This battery-as-a-service program dramatically reduces the purchase price of a new EV and provides other benefits.

Nio Battery Swap
Yes, battery swapping is a thing.

Automakers desperately want to be treated like tech companies. These days, they're more eager to tout screen sizes and driver aids than horsepower figures and hardware. Manufacturers are also licking their chops at the prospect of charging monthly fees for certain amenities. Cadillac is doing just this with its Super Cruise driving aid, and BMW is floating the idea of going to a subscription-based model for certain features like heated seats. Now, Chinese electric-vehicle maker Nio is going an even more extreme route, it announced Thursday.

In its home market, Nio is offering a new battery-as-a-service program, or BaaS for short. The idea is that customers can purchase a new EV without a battery and then subscribe to one for a separate monthly fee. This can reduce the new-vehicle purchase price by a whopping 70,000 yuan, roughly $10,100. But an electric car without a battery is about as useful as power windows on a submarine or a hairdryer you can use in the shower.

Nio Battery Swap Map

Nio has constructed 143 battery-swap stations in China.


As for the all-important -- and entirely necessary -- battery, a 70-kWh pack will cost 980 yuan per month, about $140 converted. Other capacities and prices should also be available.

Battery swapping seems like a crazy idea, but it does have a few important benefits, including giving EV owners some options. If they want to upgrade to a larger battery in the future, they can without difficulty. They're also free from worrying about battery deterioration over time, and associated decreases in driving range. Finally, vehicle resale value will likely be improved since, again, battery degradation gets taken out of the equation.

Battery subscriptions won't necessarily work for other automakers, because not all EVs have swappable packs. Nio's cars, including the EC6, EC6 and ES8 SUVs, were designed with this in mind. The company has more than 1,200 patents related to this technology and has constructed 143 power-swap stations in China. To date, Nio has completed more than 800,000 battery swaps, so clearly this is a viable technology, and one that might catch on in other countries around the world.