What are the three biggest concerns of drivers pondering the switch to electric mobility? Survey after survey, we find that it’s range, charging and price. And with good reason. Electric vehicles remain $11,000 more expensive than their combustion counterparts on average, and much of America remains a charging desert, unless you can afford the premium for a Tesla. With all of this in mind, is there room for a newcomer to the North American EV space? NIO is on the verge of making it official, as evidenced by their growing presence at their California corporate center. Just what makes NIO stand out from the crowd? It turns out that the Chinese EV startup has some game changers in store.
No Time to Charge? Pull In For a Battery Swap
Let’s cut to the chase. When the conversation turns to NIO, it’s all about battery swaps, affordability and accusations of NIO being Tesla copycats. Controversies aside, NIO has revolutionized what’s possible for EV drivers in China by successfully introducing battery swaps as an alternative to charging. NIO battery swaps are free of charge. Electric vehicle adoption in China has been adopting EVs much quicker than we have in America, with 21% of new vehicle market share being fully-electric in the first months of 2022.
NIO has over 700 stations in China, and it wants to increase that number to 4,000 by 2025. How does a NIO battery swap work? Imagine a fancy car wash-like drive-thru. Instead of slowly pulling in and aligning your car just right to get a wash, you pull in to have a robot remove the battery from the bottom of your car, which is then quickly replaced with a fully-charged battery. Pretty neat, right? NIO says that right now, the cost to build one battery swap station is around half a million dollars. With the next iteration of battery swapping, they plan to halve that cost.
For those who aren’t into the battery swap thing, NIO also offers DC fast chargers for its customers.
NIO Is Expanding Beyond China in 2022
Norway is the first European market to become home to NIO’s electric vehicles and unique charging infrastructure. The first battery swap station in Norway opened in January of this year, and 20 more are under construction. By year’s end, NIO will be setting up shop in Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark.
What about NIO’s presence in the United States? NIO has established NIO USA, which is now headquartered in a 201,500 square-foot corporate facility in San Jose, California. If you’re not familiar with corporate shenanigans, that’s MASSIVE.
Chinese media recently reported on some eye-catching job announcements from NIO. Specifically, the company is in search of professionals experienced in building a factory in the United States. According to Chinese media outlet Yicai, Nio is also hiring a blueprint planner with experience in “at least one US factory project.” NIO is coming to America! Fellow EV enthusiasts over at InsideEVs covered the details of the rumor.
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NIO Electric Cars: Tesla-esque EVs with Lower Prices
In China and select European countries, NIO offers five all-electric models in 2022. The lineup includes two sedans and three crossover SUVs.
The ET5 is a mid-size electric sedan comparable to the Tesla Model 3. This new model is expected to have a range between 342 and possibly 600 miles, depending on battery pack capacity. It’s fast, too. NIO claims a 0-60 mph time of 4.3 seconds, propelled by dual electric motors that produce 482 horsepower. The NIO ET5 costs roughly $51,000 USD in China. Pricing in America would be pure speculation at this point. See NIO’s product info here.
The ET7 is NIO’s new flagship model. The Chinese automaker announced that the ET7 has achieved the second-best drag coefficient on any production vehicle, at 0.208. That’s tied with the Tesla Model S. Only the Mercedes EQS is more aerodynamic. The Lucid Air is right behind at 0.21.
In addition to battery swapping, NIO is going after recognition for ultimate range. Starting in late 2022, the ET7 sedan will offer a massive 150 kWh battery option, which NIO claims will be good for over 600 miles on a charge. Not even the Lucid Air can claim that in 2022.
In China, the ET7’s price starts at $91,000 USD. This luxury sedan is going after the Tesla Model S. See the full details.
The NIO EC6 is the sportback coupe variant of NIO’s ES6 crossover SUV. The EC6 starts at $52,500 USD in China. Range estimates are from 273 to 381 miles, depending on battery configuration. It’s a quick coupe, with both Sport and Performance Editions available.
The first NIO model sold outside of China is the NIO ES8, a SUV available in six-seat and seven-seat configurations. This is a full-sized SUV, akin to the Tesla Model X in size and interior volume. If the ES8 indeed makes it to America, this will undoubtedly be a hot seller. Oh, and the passenger seat is effectively a business class lounge. The price? In Europe, it starts around $70,000. Learn more.
The ES6 fits snuggly into the most popular vehicle segment in America. Of course, that’s the crossover segment. This five-seater is much-loved by the team at Top Gear. They liken it to some popular competition: theAudi e-Tron, Mercedes-Benz EQC, Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X.
In China, the NIO ES6 starts at $52,000 USD, and is rated for between 300 and 380 miles of range.
Not all of NIO’s customers are thrilled with the battery swapping concept. In response to customer requests, NIO now lets owners buy a battery from the automaker. It will cost an arm and a leg though. For those who do not wish to take advantage of NIO’s unlimited free battery swaps, you can purchase a permanent battery pack for $11,000 to $20,000, depending on the capacity.
Nevertheless, NIO is coming to America with their game-changing charging strategy. I have my doubts that it will be free and unlimited like it is in China, but consumers may be eager to pay for the convenience of battery swapping EVs. What do you think? Is there room for NIO in the North American electric vehicle market? Let us know in the comments, or better yet, head over to the YAA Community Forum to discuss with fellow auto enthusiasts and curious car buyers.