Battery exchange stations that double as power plants

The NIO model to “recharge” its electric cars on the road is committed to battery exchanges instead of fast chargers, although without neglecting the latter. The Chinese company presented last July the third generation of its exchange stations NIO Power Swap and now it has announced that some of its stations already have the necessary technology to function as virtual power plants capable of feeding electricity into the grid.

NIO is already testing the latest generation of battery exchange stations in China. The main objective is to offer its customers a battery change in a few minutes, exchanging a discharged battery for a fully charged one. However, the seasons can have another utility: supply electricity to the grid during peak hours of demand or in the event of blackoutsacting as “virtual” power plants.

High temperatures across China are causing power outages in some cities. This has led to the start of testing the NIO technology, which is already testing this curious experiment in 108 different stations (58 of them in Shanghai). In a recent post on its social networks, the company has explained how its battery exchange stations can help mitigate this situation.

There are two lines of action: the first is optimize the timing of the exchange based on the energy demand on the network, encouraging drivers to “cut the peaks and fill the valleys.” This, logically, can go against the needs of the customer, who will not always be able (nor will he) to choose when to change the battery in his car. However, the connection to the NIO cloud facilitates the exchange of data in this sense, interacting with the electrical network and the users of their vehicles.

second station exchange batteries electric cars nio norway-front page
Second electric car battery exchange station in Norway

The second line of action is allow all exchange stations to actively participate in the electrical network, pouring electricity at peak demand or when there are occasional cuts in supply. According to NIO, its stations can connect to the regulator in question and adapt to its power requirements to the second. In this way, the energy stored in the batteries could be used to cover peak demand.

The current exchange stations (2.0) house thirteen batteries with a storage capacity between 600 and 700 kWh. When the driver of an NIO electric car replaces its battery at the station, the other 11 or 12 packs can be downloaded to the grid for five or ten minutes, with little interruption to the battery replacement service for car users. . In the city of Hefei they have already begun to use them: there fifteen NIO stations poured 8 MWh into the grid in five days, equivalent to meeting the demand of 3,000 different households in real time (with the average daily electricity consumption of a Spanish household, 8 MWh are enough to supply about 200 homes).

NIO, which already has more than 1,000 exchange stations in China, announced at the last ‘NIO Power Day’ that its third generation of exchange stations will offer more battery capacity and more flexible layout. It will start installing them in late 2022 or early 2023. The company is expanding its model to other markets as well, including Europe, and even intends to license the technology to other manufacturers. The company recently opened its second battery exchange station in Norway, and it intends to continue expanding the network. Something essential for the arrival and expansion of its electric cars in the European market.

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