24 Nov 17

NIO, the Chinese Tesla Challenger

Chinese start-up NIO might not (yet) sound familiar, but the brand is ambitious, generously funded and is profiling itself as Tesla’s biggest competitor on the Chinese market. NIO has recently released the specs of its latest model, the ES8 (full name : NextEV NIO ES8), a 2400 kg, 5 meter long / 2 meter wide 7 seater in a 2/3/2 configuration. And it has a swappable battery that can be replaced in 5 minutes.


One of the interesting aspects about mobility start-ups is how they fund themselves. NIO just finalised a new capital round of $1.1 billion and the company is valued at $2.9 billion. Funding comes from different sources, but here are some of the names : the joint venture with Jianghuai Automotive Corporation (also Volkswagen’s partner in China), Tencent (Chinese internet company, also a Tesla shareholder), Lenovo and Baidu (Chinese search engine).

Focus on Chinese market

NIO’s strongest argument in favour of their product versus the Tesla product (Model X) is its compatibility with the Chinese nuclear family: mother, father, 2 kids, grandparents or nanny. NIO adds that the pricing of the ES8 will be a “fraction” of the Tesla pricing. The same is to be expected of the ES6 (5 seater SUV, to be launched in 2018) and the ET7, an EV designed to compete with the 5 Series / E Class segment.


NIO’s CFO Louis Hsieh confirms the company’s ambitions : due to its aggressive pricing, middle class Chinese families will be able to afford and EV that’s fast, has a good range (355km to 500km depending on driving style), is capable of Level 4 autonomy via software updates (identical to Tesla). In other words: it’s a cheaper Chinese Tesla. Equally similar to Tesla, NIO will be selling an electric supercar, the EP9, capable of reaching 100km/h in 2.7 seconds.


Exciting companies have interesting board members. No different at NIO : NIO Chairman and Founder William Li has founded several companies prior to NIO and has been nominated as one of the most influential people in the Chinese automotive industry. Padmasree Warrior, the company’s CEO worked at Motorola until 2007 when she joined Cisco. She is leading NIO since 2015. Philip Graham, VP, has been with Cisco, Avaya and Lucid before joining NIO. It goes without saying that several Tesla specialists are now also working for NIO.

Interesting for the Fleet Manager?

Although NIO is saying out loud that its main focus is China, fact remains that NIO has 4 headquarters : Shanghai, San Francisco, Munich and London: locations with a strong link to finance, tech and automotive. Observers of the EV developments already put NIO forward as a potential key manufacturer. As the Chinese government is accelerating the integration of EV’s much more than any other government, we can expect NIO to kickstart with the launch of the ES8 on December 16th 2017.

Authored by: Yves Helven