Chinese Nio ES8 electric SUV takes aim at Tesla with optional battery swapping

Chinese startup Nio (formerly known as NextEV) has made a big splash in a short period of time. Founded in 2014, after spending a couple of years under the radar, it launched an all-electric supercar and announced plans for a mass-production electric SUV capable of taking on Tesla. That mass-market model is now here.

The Nio ES8 is on sale in the company’s home market. While many startups, including Faraday Future and Lucid Motors, talked about Tesla-fighting electric cars, Nio has actually put its car into production. The company previously said it would begin selling electric cars in the United States in 2020, although it may bring a different model here.

In a move reminiscent of Tesla, the first 10,000 ES8 deliveries will be “Founder’s Edition” models priced at 548,000 yuan ($82,989), while regular models are priced at 448,000 yuan ($67,783). That undercuts the 836,000 yuan ($126,603) base price of a Tesla Model X in China, notes Bloomberg (the Model X starts at $79,500 in the U.S., but shipping costs and import duties inflate its price in China). That could give Nio an advantage in what is now the world’s largest market for electric cars.

Like the Model X, the ES8 has one electric motor on each axle, giving it all-wheel drive. The two motors produce a combined 480 kilowatts (643 horsepower) and 619 pound-feet of torque, getting the SUV from 0 to 62 mph in 4.4 seconds, says Nio. A 70-kilowatt-hour battery pack provides a claimed range of 355 kilometers (220 miles) in average driving conditions. The ES8 features seating for seven and an aluminum body to keep weight down.

The ES8 will feature some form of advanced driver-assist system, although Nio didn’t provide details on its capabilities. The company did say that the ES8 is equipped with 23 sensors, including cameras and radar, as well as Mobileye’s new EyeQ4 image processor. Nomi, which Nio claims is the world’s first in-car A.I., handles infotainment functions.

Nio ES8 electric SUV

Nio will also offer battery swapping, an idea that even Tesla has not been able to implement on a large scale. By 2020, Nio hopes to build 1,200 “Power Swap” battery-swap stations and deploy over 1,200 “Power Mobile” vehicles, which will drive around and provide charging in the field, in addition to conventional charging stations.

Taking advantage of the swappable battery setup, customers will be able to opt into a battery-subscription service. They will rent their cars’ battery packs for 1,280 yuan ($193) per month. Nio says this will take 100,000 yuan ($15,143) off the purchase price of an ES8, and enable customers to upgrade their battery packs when new versions become available.

Getting a vehicle into production has put Nio ahead of most startups, but the company has a long way to go. It’s unclear if the company’s battery-swapping and subscription schemes will work out, or if customers will actually like the ES8 as much as its more established American rival. And while Nio has the home-field advantage in China, it may have a tougher time getting established in the U.S.

Product Review

The Ferrari Portofino is the super stallion you’ll want to drive every day

With the introduction of the Portofino, Ferrari addresses the California T’s stylistic shortcomings while improving comfort, convenience, and performance. There’s little “entry-level” about this super stallion.

Tesla Model 3 vulnerability exposed at Pwn2Own; hackers take home the car

A Tesla Model 3 vulnerability was exposed at the Pwn2Own hacking competition. The hackers, who were able to display a message on the electric vehicle's internet browser, won $35,000 and took home the car.

Tesla ends scheduled servicing because electric cars need less maintenance

Tesla will longer offer scheduled maintenance plans, switching to an "as needed" model. This reflects the fact that electric cars need less regular maintenance than gasoline or diesel cars.

Fiat wants to transform the cheeky 500 city car into an urban Tesla

Fiat is finally preparing a new 500. Scheduled to make its debut in early 2020, the retro-chic city car will go electric in part to comply with looming emissions regulations.

Fisker plans sub-$40,000 electric SUV with 300 miles of range for 2021

Fisker Inc. plans to launch an electric SUV with a base price of under $40,000, and a range of around 300 miles in 2021. The unnamed vehicle could compete with the Tesla Model Y, if it ever gets into production.

Autonomous shuttle rides coming to New York City via Optimus Ride

Workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in NY City will soon be able to make their way around the 300-acre industrial park in Optimus Ride's self-driving shuttles. The tech startup says it's the first trial of its kind in the state.
Product Review

2019 Volkswagen Jetta offers German refinement and tech at an affordable price

With enough tech to make villains jealous, the Volkswagen Jetta punches above its class as a forward-thinking sedan. Spacious, comfortable, and efficient, the Jetta is a refined offering. German refinement comes with a serious attitude.

Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi group uses Microsoft cloud platform for connected cars

The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is launching a new cloud platform for its cars. Based on Microsoft Azure, the Alliance Intelligent Cloud will enable features like connected services and over-the-air updates.

The 2019 Toyota C-HR gains a popular tech feature as its price comes down

Toyota has updated the C-HR, its entry-level crossover, by adding an entry-level trim level to the lineup. Every model regardless of price also comes standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay.

The 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe is an exercise in form-over-function design

Porsche expanded its lineup of SUVs with a swoopier evolution of the Cayenne named Cayenne Coupe. Don't let the name fool you: it still has four doors. It stands out with a fastback-like roofline that's lower than the Cayenne's.
Product Review

Chris is the virtual co-pilot phone-obsessives need in their car

Driving while using your phone is dangerous, and often illegal. Meet Chris, the digital assistant for your car that wants to help keep your hands off your phone, and your eyes on the road.

Protect yourself and your ride with our favorite dash cams

Dashboard cameras can assist drivers in car accident claims, settle speeding ticket disputes, and even catch glimpses of incoming meteors, among other things. Here, we've compiled a list of the most noteworthy offerings available.

Tesla revives its referral program with chances to win a Roadster

Tesla has revived its referral program that ended in February because of cost pressures. This time around the perks aren't quite as diverse, though it does offer regular chances to win a Roadster or Model Y.

The go kart-like Mini Cooper will soon add zero emissions to its resume

Mini is in the final stages of developing an electric version of the Cooper. The 2020 Cooper SE will receive powertrain components from the BMW i3, including a 181-horsepower electric motor and battery technology.