Nio ES8 electric SUV sales begin in China with Tesla-rivaling specs


Nio, nee NextEV, launched its first production car for the masses this month with the ES8 electric SUV. With the vehicle's launch, Nio seems poised as a true threat to Tesla in China, where the Silicon Valley automaker's cars are not eligible for government subsidies and incentives because they're imported.

The ES8 electric SUV starts at roughly $68,000 USD, which is about half the price of a Tesla Model X in China. Furthermore, the ES8 returns an estimated 220 miles of range  with its dual-electric motors and battery pack. The least expensive Model X will go 237 miles. And Nio is forging ahead with a thus far stillborn concept for Tesla: battery swapping. The 70 kilowatt-hour battery pack can be swapped in as little as three minutes with its quick-swap system. The company has plans for 1,100 swapping stations in China by 2020 to ease range anxiety. Nio will even offer a service in which a van will come out to charge the ES8 for 10 minutes to give it 62 miles of range.

The two electric motors provide 644 horsepower, which is enough for a 0-62 mph sprint of just 4.4 seconds, according to Nio. If we're sticking to the Model X comparisons, the Tesla will do the deed in 3.3. seconds.

The ES8 looks properly put together in official photos, too, and it's one of the few Chinese-built cars that wears somewhat of a distinct design. Up front, we see a lot of Citroen, while the rear wouldn't look out place on a Jeep product. Still, it's cohesive and works well. The ES8 features aluminum body and chassis construction, and an active air suspension smooths out the bumps.

Inside, drivers and passengers will find an airy cabin with leather seats, a head-up display, and a wireless charging pad for smartphones. A driver artificial intelligence system, called NOMI, will use cloud computing to interact with the driver and help with needs along the route.

On the safety front, five cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and five radar systems are onboard and they are powered by Mobileye’s EyeQ4 chip. That hardware will give the car such features as adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and blind-spot monitors.

Nio made its name with the EP9 all-electric supercar, which has already been in production. Now, the company looks ready for success in China with its mass-market ES8.

Meanwhile, Tesla is still working to potentially set up shop in China with its own factory to qualify for Chinese government subsidies. 

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