Chinese automaker Nio plans to offer customers the option of leasing the battery packs in electric cars. Announced in a press release Thursday, this "battery as a service" model involves purchasing the car outright, but paying a monthly fee for use of the battery pack.

Nio plans to charge the equivalent of about $140 a month (at current exchange rates) for the battery subscription—with no battery included in return for $10,100 off the vehicle's sale price.

The subscription option will be available in China on 70-kilowatt-hour battery packs for the ES8, ES6, and EC6 models.

In combination with Nio's proven battery-swapping services, this could be a game-changer, and a way to get around both the high price of EVs and their plunging depreciation. They're both closely linked to concerns about the battery pack, which can cost $15,000 or more in some long-range or premium models.

2019 Nio ES8 and ES6

2019 Nio ES8 and ES6

Could this model work in the United States? It's is a question we've asked for a long time, as we've watched it tried on a small-scale basis by some automakers.

For a time, Smart offered something like this idea on its Fortwo Electric Drive—dubbed "Battery Assurance Plus."

In Europe, Renault offered a battery upgrade on its Zoe on a lease basis. And sibling brand Nissan offered a battery-lease option in Europe as well.

Swapping and upgrading is the other great advantage. Nio has had a high level of success with battery swapping in China, so we're eager to see how these two ideas fit together—and if it could possibly reach other markets like the U.S.