Is NIO Power Ecosystem truly sustainable or just gimmicky?

Updated: Jul 14

2019 Shanghai Auto Show is just right around the corner but I want to talk about the bigger picture, using one of the hottest Internet buzz words - ecosystem, to give researchers or designers some hints on where the future EV may lead us next in China. Introducing NIO, a great example for this topic.

Image Credit: NIO

Why NIO?


As the “Tesla of China”, NIO is making some major moves before and during the Shanghai Auto Show in 2019. They are recently opening up the NIO Power Express service for non-NIO EV owners and they are also rolling out the NIO Battery Upgrade program starting May 1st.

This short article will not give you every detail about NIO Power, but it will illustrate the key facts of NIO Power services to help readers understand the basics of NIO Power Ecosystem in China. More importantly, we want to provoke your thinking around the EV power ecosystem as a whole via a design and strategic thinking point of view.


The Facts (claimed and publicized by NIO)

NIO battery swap


Image Credit: Cube House Works; Shot on G2 Highway in China

NIO battery swap is a compact (a quarter or less of a typical gas station in size in China) battery swapping stations mainly located in parking lots of popular malls and major highway service areas (occasionally and next to Tesla Supercharger), where NIO owners could have its depleted battery removed and replaced with a fully charged one in three minutes, available in 24/7.


The cost is RMB 180 (USD 26.8) per replacement regardless of the remaining battery capacity. The existing actual highway range of NIO ES8 is 200 KM, which makes a good case and important safe net to have this service built along the major highways in China.


However, doesn’t this cost just as much as getting petrol for the same range, and maybe even more costly?


Image Credit: NIO

NIO Power Express: One-Click Charge Service (Non-NIO service launched on April 16th)


Through this on-demand service accessed via NIO App or NIO WeChat Mini Program, NIO lets NIO owners and non-NIO EV owners order a NIO Mobile charging van to your location to charge (fast charging at a premium) your drained EV, or NIO service staff will come pick up your car and drive it to a charging location to charge and drop it off back to you, depending on the availability of NIO Power resources.


The cost:

For NIO owners

In the subscription-based program, NIO owner needs to pay RMB 980 per month or RMB 10800 per year to enjoy the NIO Power Express service, which includes up to 15 times of on-demand charging service.


For non-NIO EV owners

Today NIO announced its generosity that it will share its NIO Power Express staff and vans with Tesla, BYD, Roewe and other non-NIO EV owners. This generosity comes at a hefty price - starting at RMB 280 (USD 41.8) per regular charge or RMB 380 (USD 56.7) per fast charge.


Great, it costs more than getting a full tank of gas (for some cars). You might as well let them charge all your electronics at once.


NIO Battery upgrade service (proposal came out on April 11th on NIO Day)


Image Credit: Cube House Works; Shot in NIO Showroom in Shanghai Taikoo Center

Starting May 1st 2019, NIO will launch its Battery/Range Upgrade Program allowing existing ES8 owners to replace its existing 70 kWh battery with 84 kWh battery achieving total range of 425 km (NEDC).


The cost:

For existing NIO owners:

For RMB 30000 (USD 4477), you will get the new 84 kWh battery. OR you could pay a daily fee of RMB 39 (USD 5.8) to subscribe to the new battery.


For new owners (downpayment after 3.31), the battery replacement costs RMB 50000 (USD 7462) or daily subscription fee as RMB 66 (USD 9.85).


There is a kick - you can only use this program once in your ownership life time. Hmm...


The NIO Power Ecosystem


Image Credit: Cube House Works

Lastly, let’s talk about the “ecosystem”. Well, when it comes to any ecosystem, the most often spoken word is sustainable. We want sustainable ecosystems, not short-lived ecosystems. If the ecosystem does not last long and break apart easily, the organisms in the system would die out soon. At least that is what I’ve learned in my middle school biology class. Enough nature talks.


With all seriousness, I constantly ask myself and my friends in the industry this grand question - is NIO Power Ecosystem a sustainable model? It is important to steer the NIO conversations away from either bashing on NIO or glorifying it, and to create an intellectual discussion via a design and strategic point of angle.


Instead of debating around IF NIO can or cannot do, we encourage you to use your imagination to challenge yourself with HOW MIGHT NIO can do:

  • How might NIO Battery Station be duplicated and scaled at a more affordable cost?

  • How might NIO Battery Station progress in the future beyond merely more installations at more locations?

  • How might NIO Battery Station serve and fit into the whole EV ecosystem?

  • How might NIO Power Express fit into EV users’ driving and usage behavior in the future, especially when battery storage and management system grows more advanced with longer range capability?

  • How might NIO Power Express create more value to EV owners if charging and fast charging infrastructure becomes more widespread and mature?


  • How might Battery Upgrade Program affect EV car purchasing behavior?

  • How might Battery Upgrade Program create unique value to EV owners if charging is as easy as getting gas in the future?

  • How might Battery Upgrade Program take care of the many replaced batteries?

Interestingly, in the Shanghai Auto Show, almost every car brand (including super car brands) is launching or has launched its electric lineup or concept as well as concrete rollout plans for China market. Without a doubt, more “power ecosystem” will be introduced and more EV cars will be entering these ecosystems in China.


Image Credit: Cube House Works

As the so-called “Tesla of China”, NIO and its Power Ecosystem will be hit with competitors’ challenges, subsidy reductions and subsequent consumer behavioral shifts, which was unprecedented before 2019. I would also not be surprised if the above questions including the grand question are going to be addressed and answered in the next a year or two.


Good luck NIO. While your “future is here” (蔚来以来), your competition is also here in China.

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