Nio is a Chinese automotive startup begun by William Li. It was originally known as NextEV but switch its corporate name a few months back. Until the Shanghai auto show, it was known primarily for an extraordinarily fast all electric two seat supercar called the Nio EP9 which was shown circulating at speeds up to 160 mph at the Circuit of the Americas race track in Texas recently. This past week at the Shanghai auto show, Nio showed off a much more prosaic vehicle. Called the ES8, it is reported to be a 7 passenger electric SUV with all wheel drive.
Details are hard to come by at this point. The ES8 is intended solely for the Chinese market, so far as we know. It rides on a 118 inch wheelbase and is 196 inches long overall. Both the body and the chassis are made entirely aluminum. A range of 300 miles is mentioned, but Asian carmakers often use a very optimistic standard. For now, assume an EPA range of 200 to 220 miles. No battery size was specified for the show car on display in China. Production is set to being later this year.
In a press release, Nio dropped this dollop of information: “The vehicle’s swappable battery will provide a charging experience that surpasses refuelling at gas stations. The manufacturing and supply chain that will produce the ES8 is already in place.” A swappable battery? That is a concept that others, including Tesla, explored a few years ago but dropped after tests proved it was too cumbersome and too costly. How Nio plans to overcome the technical and price concerns remains to be seen.
William Li, the CEO of Nio, told the press in Shanghai. “Today we unveiled our new production vehicle, the NIO ES8 to the China market. It is another statement of our vision and technical and manufacturing capabilities. It is a best-in-class product that showcases what is possible with electric vehicles. I am proud of our relentless focus on vision and action. From track to road, NIO continues to achieve major milestones every year.”
The most shocking thing about the Nio ES8 is how utterly conventional it looks. Manufacturers are always pulled in opposite directions by the advent of new technology. On the one hand, they want their snazzy new gadget to be instantly recognizable as something new and exciting. Toyota went that way with the second generation Prius (the first generation had all the visual appeal of a lump of bread dough). Chevy started in that direction with the Volt but dialed back the wow factor for the second generation car to make it more appealing to mainstream drivers.
The ES8 is about as mainstream as it gets. An SUV is what the industry refers to as a “two box” design — a space up front for the mechanicals and a large box behind it for passengers and cargo. Every time a manufacturer tries to gussy up an SUV to make it more visually appealing, (the Tesla Model X and the Volkswagen CROZZ are two recent examples) they wind up lowering the amount of stuff the car can conveniently carry. Hauling stuff is theoretically the raison d’etre of any SUV, dating back to the original Ford Explorer.
Car News China carps, “the NIO ES8 needs a bit more crazy.” Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If a car can carry 7 people and all their gear and do it on battery power alone, that is a “Hurrah!” moment for the industry. We need more cars for mainstream folks and fewer cars for early adopters. Congratulations to Nio for not getting sucked into building a swoopy looking vehicle with no room inside for more than a carton of Kleenex and a miniature poodle.
Source: Cleantechnica Photo credits: Nio