Status: 10.01.2022 6:39 a.m.
NIO wants to compete globally: The Chinese e-car manufacturer dares to jump into the German car market and other European countries. Is there serious competition here?
NIO is one of the largest Chinese electric car companies and presented its new electric sedan in December. It should have a range of more than 1000 kilometers, more than Tesla and comparable to a new research vehicle that Mercedes has just presented. The highlight: Instead of charging, the battery is simply replaced. In contrast to charging, this is just as fast as filling up at the petrol pump.
A completely new charging concept
A small on-board computer in the car announces: “Let’s go. The electric battery will be changed. It will jerk a little, but don’t worry.” Everything runs automatically, the car drives into the exchange station by itself: a box like a small gas station, only without a petrol pump. The car parks itself so accurately that the machine – coming from below – can remove the empty battery from the car and insert the new one. It takes about four minutes.
The 35-year-old car owner Zhai Manhua can sit back and relax in the car. a bit like in the car wash. “I can change the battery four times a month for free,” says Zhai. “I drive to work every day, about 40 kilometers a day, so it’s enough to swap four times a month.” Sometimes at the weekend, when she goes on a trip, it’s already 200 kilometers a day. “Then I’ll replace the battery immediately afterwards.”
NIO has set up 50 such battery exchange stations within three years in Shanghai alone. Nationwide there are around 700, and the number is set to increase – not only in China, but also in Europe and Germany. “One thing is certain in 2022: We will see our cars in Germany. That is 100 percent certain,” announced NIO CEO and founder Li Bin.
Expansion into Europe is not without its hurdles
The Chinese electric car manufacturer has been around for seven years. In 2018 the company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Two years ago it was on the verge of bankruptcy, but was saved by government money from the Chinese city of Hefei. So now the expansion to Europe – albeit not immediately with the latest model, the sedan with a range of more than 1000 kilometers. In Germany, NIO wants to start with the previous model in autumn – and also build up the entire infrastructure of the battery exchange stations. “We have reached a global strategic partnership with Shell to supply China, Europe and potentially also the USA with battery exchange stations and to set up the infrastructure,” says Li.
According to car expert Zeng Zhilin from the Shanghai management consultancy LMC Automotive, it costs the equivalent of more than 100,000 euros to build a battery exchange station. He thinks it is realistic that NIO can find local partners and investors. Nevertheless, the challenge for NIO on the European market is great. “Europe is an old, traditional market. Europeans are not as crazy about new technologies as Chinese customers, for example when it comes to automatic driving,” says Zeng. The European market is still very much focused on the car as a car. “And it will be difficult for a car manufacturer like NIO, who not only focuses on the car itself, but also on smart technologies, on software and new concepts.”
German e-car manufacturers no competition?
Other market experts point out that it could be important for NIO to polish up its image in the Chinese home market by also being active in Europe. The Chinese auto expert Zeng doesn’t believe that: NIO wants to go to Europe because Tesla is there. It’s not about competing with German automakers either – only Tesla is important, says Zeng. Because self-driving cars with electric drives are the future, IT and software in the automotive industry are the key competencies. And German carmakers have not yet understood that – or, as NIO boss Li puts it: “The sooner they decide to build intelligent and electric cars, the better it is for them,” said Li. “Nowadays it takes four years until you see results. If they don’t start today, nothing will change in the next four years. “
The Chinese electric car manufacturer NIO is coming to Germany
Eva Lamby-Schmitt, ARD Shanghai, 6.1.2022 · 17:23