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China's NextEV to sell a premium electric crossover at a 'Toyota price' by 2019

Chinese startup NextEV surprised the auto industry late last month by introducing an all-electric, limited-edition supercar named EP9 (pictured) that set several records on Germany’s famous Nürburgring track. The company will use the proceeds from selling six examples of the coupe to develop its first mass-produced model.

Marketed under the Nio brand, the yet-unnamed car will take the form of a battery-powered crossover aimed directly at the Tesla Model X. It will be equipped with a 70-kilowatt-hour battery pack that will offer up to 330 miles of range, though industry trade journal Automotive News reports the final figure might be a little lower because the European testing cycle is wildly optimistic. NextEV has never built a production car, but it learned a lot about designing an electric drivetrain by competing in Formula E.

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NextEV believes it will be able to significantly undercut its main rivals on price. The crossover will be positioned as an alternative to BMW- and Audi-badged models, but it will launch with what company co-founder Jack Cheng promises will be a “Toyota price.” Whether he’s referring to the Yaris, which carries a base price of $15,250, or the Land Cruiser, which sits on top of the Toyota hierarchy with an $84,325 price tag, is anyone’s guess at this point.

Beating Tesla has become a buzzword in among startups who specialize in electric vehicles. NextEV is no different, and it promises to offer much better customer service than its American rival, especially on the Chinese market. “I have a Tesla. It took me three months to install a charger at home,” affirmed William Li, the businessman who co-founded NextEV.

Cheng told Automotive News that the company’s crossover will be sold in the United States starting either in late 2018 or early 2019. By that point, the premium electric crossover segment will begin to get crowded. Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Jaguar are racing to enter the market, and Chinese-funded startup Faraday Future hopes to sell a battery-electric crossover sooner or later, though recent reports claim it’s running into funding issues.