EV Startup NIO to Launch a New Mass-Market Brand to Rival Tesla with an Annual Capacity of 500,000 Vehicles a Year

EV Startup NIO to Launch a New Mass-Market Brand to Rival Tesla with an Annual Capacity of 500,000 Vehicles a Year

Author: Eric Walz   

Electric vehicle startup NIO Inc. is already emerging as a formidable rival to Tesla in China, with its tech-laden and more affordable electric vehicles.

But NIO aims to launch a new EV brand offering even more affordable vehicles to better compete against the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y in the China market, said CEO and chairman William Bin Li, on Thursday. The sub-brand will have an annual capacity of 500,000 electric vehicles a year.

The new brand's models would be priced between 200,000 yuan ($29,840) and 300,000 yuan ($44,750), which is around 10% cheaper than Tesla's Model 3 in China. The vehicles will also have swappable battery packs, according to Li.

Tesla's Model 3 sedan starts at 279,900 yuan ($41,672) in China.

NIO's plans were reported by local news outlet Gasgoo.

Li also said that NIO's new mass-market EV brand would provide the models that take on Tesla's Model 3 and Model Y in China, but will be around 10% cheaper with swappable battery packs. Deliveries of vehicles under NIO's new mass-market brand would begin in the second half of 2024, according to Gasgoo. 

The vehicles will be built on NIO's new NT3.0 electric vehicle platform.

As reported by Chinese new outlet Gasgoo, Li said that NIO already signed with the local authority of Hefei Economic & Technological Development Zone last month for constructing the second phase of an EV plant at NeoPark at Xinqiao, Hefei, Anhui province. 

NeoPark is designed to be a world-class smart electric vehicle industrial park for the research and development of battery-powered vehicles, core components and autonomous driving technology. The 16,950-acre park features three main areas, smart manufacturing, R&D and living space.

Last week, NIO signed a framework agreement with the municipal government of Lu'an, a prefecture-level city in western Anhui province, to jointly build an industrial park to build and recycle auto parts intelligent electric vehicles, according to Gasgoo, citing a local government's official WeChat account. The agreement was signed on June 10.

The new facility will be a low carbon high-end aluminum die-casting and recycling industrial park to help meet China's carbon neutrality targets. The facility aims to be a circular industrial chain for aluminum die-casting of vehicle bodies.

The first phase of the industrial park will focus on refined disassembly of complete vehicles, recycling of aluminum and other materials, smelting of aluminum materials, aluminum die-casting, and wheel hub manufacturing. 

The first-phase facility is scheduled to start operation in the first half of 2023, targeting an production capacity of 300,000-tons of aluminum die-casts with an annual production value of 10 billion yuan ($1.49 billion).

Once operational, the industrial park will cut carbon emissions from the aluminum die-casting process of NIO's electric vehicles by around 50%.

NIO also revealed its new ES7 SUV this week. Pre-orders for the new electric SUV are already opened and deliveries are expected to start delivering in late August. NIO is positioning its new electric SUV as a competitor to BMW's X5 Li that's sold in China. Pricing for the ES7 is 468,000 to 548,000 yuan ($69,677 - $81,588).

In addition to launching the ES7, NIO announced an upgrade of its SUVs. The updated models come with a more powerful smart technology, including a faster CPU and GPU, 5G connectivity, AI-powered voice assistant, HD surround view cameras and more, according to CEO Li.

With the launch of the ES7 this week, NIO currently offers six electric models. The others are the ES8 and ES6 SUVs, ET5 and ET7 sedans, and the EC6 fastback. NIO's first model was the ES8, which launched in 2018 in China.

Last week, NIO announced plans to produce its own battery packs as a way to boost profitability and competitiveness in the growing EV segment, rather than relying on a supplier for expensive EV batteries.

NIO plans to manufacture in-house developed high-voltage battery packs to better compete with Tesla in its home market, as well as in Europe, which is NIO's first overseas market outside of China. NIO plans to start producing more powerful 800-volt battery packs in the second half of 2024. 

NIO's battery manufacturing plans were shared by CEO Li on a call with analysts last week.

Most electric vehicles come with 400-volt batteries. However 800-volt batteries can accept higher charging rates for rapid charging in as little as 15 minutes. These higher voltage battery packs are also used in the Porsche Taycan electric sedan. 

The batteries produced by NIO will be used in the vehicles produced by NIO's new EV brand in the second half of 2024. 

NIO is also reportedly looking to build an EV factory in the U.S., based on job listings posted in China.

According to the job postings, NIO is looking to hire "overseas manufacturing park planning specialists", "car body process specialists for overseas projects", "overseas planning and infrastructure specialists" and "overseas logistics project managers".

The job description shows that candidates for overseas manufacturing park planning specialists are required to have experience in managing two or more complete master plan projects, at least one of which should be in the U.S.

The NIO job postings further requests that candidates should have sufficient knowledge of the U.S. state policies, design codes, and planning submission procedures, and be familiar with the "process and master plan principles of the U.S."

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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