What the electric car manufacturer Nio is planning in Europe
The only eight-year-old electric car start-up Nio from China already has a number of successes to show: More than 14,000 employees worldwide, almost 200,000 electric cars delivered, an innovative battery technology, more than 900 battery exchange stations...
The trade journal Edison spoke to Hui Zhang, the head of Nio in Europe, about all this and the Chinese carmaker's plans for Europe.
"Nio is a global start-up and its particular mission is to bring a positive attitude towards life to our users with smart premium electric vehicles that offer an outstanding user experience," Zhang says at the beginning of the interview. He says the brand wants to provide "a lot of joy of life and beautiful experiences that they can share".
When it comes to mobility, Nio wants to offer "an all-around complete ecosystem": "And our compass has four attractive directions," as Zhang explains: Number one is the smart, sustainable electric car "with forward-looking features up to solid-state batteries or autonomous driving". Number two is the network, which also includes "extensive charging offers, including swap stations", as the manufacturer calls its battery swap stations. Thirdly, the manager mentions "the entire digital system with the Nio apps" and finally, fourthly, the points of sales, the contact points for car purchases, which also include the Nio Houses and the service centres.
Unfortunately, Zhang did not reveal where and when the first Nio Houses are to open in Germany. Only this much: they are "already under construction". But it should be obvious, as Zhang says, that these are "the big metropolises", i.e. "a handful of interesting German cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants and the corresponding, very attractive city-centre locations". In any case, the Nio Houses are to be built before the first vehicles are delivered to German customers, which is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2022.
The first model to come to Germany is the ET7 premium sedan, more than five metres long and with up to 480 kW of power at the axles. The vehicle is equipped with the manufacturer's latest and smartest technology, he said. "And what's more, we think the ET7 is even more successful in terms of design than the large SUV, which will also get the new software architecture later on," says Zhang, referring to the first model from Nio to come to Europe: The ES8 SUV, which has been available in Norway since autumn last year.
Before the end of this year, Nio wants to crack a magic mark and launch an electric car with a range of more than 1000 kilometres: A variant of the ET7 sedan, which is to be equipped with a 150 kWh solid-state battery - it would be the first such battery worldwide. Nio sees itself as a "real pioneer" in this respect. But the Chinese also want to be a pioneer in other areas, such as autonomous driving, for which the manufacturer envisages level three to four for the ET7, i.e. self-driving without the driver having to intervene. Customers will be able to "buy the Nio system as normal, but also rent it on a monthly basis".
"We have two powerful factories"
So far, Nio has delivered almost 200,000 electric cars. Soon it should be significantly more: We have "two powerful factories", Zhang says. One of them is the main factory in Hefei, where Nio can increase capacity to up to 300,000 cars. The almost completed factory two is also in Hefei and also has a capacity of 300,000 units. "So we already have a high volume ready," the manager said. In addition, the manufacturer is looking into vehicle assembly at a contract manufacturer in Europe. Zhang would not comment on rumours that it might be Valmet or Magna Steyr.
The ET7's battery can be recharged in two ways: It can be recharged "at appropriate wall boxes or pillars" or quickly exchanged for a full one at an exchange station, Zhang said. There are currently 915 of these stations in China, and each has "a stock of 13 batteries", with the empty batteries also being recharged directly in the station. This means that more than 300 changes per day should be possible. By the end of the year, Nio wants to have set up 1300 exchange stations worldwide, including in Germany. Nio wants to comment on the first swap stations in Germany "soon"; the team is currently working on "several business locations". Zhang cites popular travel routes as examples, such as the connection from Munich to Italy via the Brenner Pass or the routes to the Nordic countries from Hamburg.