China’s electric vehicle startup Nio has launched its first mass-produced vehicle, leaving major foreign automakers such as Tesla scrambling to keep up.
The ES8, priced 448,000 Chinese yuan ($67,765), was launched over the weekend. It is half the price of Tesla’s Model X in China, which costs 836,000 yuan ($126,470). Production of Chinese electric vehicles is heavily subsidised and companies such as Nio also have policy support from the Chinese state.
In an interview to CNBC over the weekend, Nio’s chairman William Li said it would be hard to guess how the new vehicle would affect Tesla’s sales in China. “Maybe Tesla will sell less…after our product is sold out. Or perhaps, since the entire market is growing, they will still maintain growth in sales. It is hard to say.”
Li confirmed that many customers had turned to Nio from Tesla but added that there were also those who bought products from both companies.
Nio’s latest vehicle
Nio’s ES8 model is a seven-seat electric vehicle which is customizable and equipped with an artificial intelligence system. The car can accelerate to about 100 kilometers per hour in 4.4 seconds. Orders can be placed through an app.
The electric vehicle market in China is booming due to an aggressive climate policy being pursued by Beijing to cut air pollution in the country. The government provides subsidies and state investment in the sector, including building a battery charging network.
Nio also introduced a battery charging plan with a rental subscription set at 1,200 yuan ($181) per month. Owners of ES8 would be able to charge their cars at stations which allow their batteries to be swapped in three minutes, Nio said in a press statement. A mobile service also travels to car owners who need to charge their vehicles. Nio has committed to constructing more than 1,100 ‘power swap’ charging stations and deploying 1,200 power mobiles by 2020.