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NIO is one of the hottest new (or new-ish) cleantech companies on the planet. Launched in China in November 2014, it is constantly in tight competition with Xpeng for the title of “Top Selling EV Startup in China.” This NIO guide provides an overview about the company and is routinely updated.

NIO’s Product Evolution — Short Intro

NIO unabashedly — and many would say wisely — took lessons from Tesla’s success and tried to improve upon them with its own spin and style. It started in the luxury end of the market, unusual for a Chinese automotive startup, and particularly in the luxury sports car segment, with the EP9 launching in 2016. However, after that, the company jumped to large SUVs instead of sports cars, with the ES8 launching in 2018.

After entering the market in the luxury SUV segment in 2018, NIO has been gradually offering smaller, lower-cost models — a new one each year — but it is still sticking to the broader luxury SUV segment. The ES6 was launched in 2019 and the EC6 in 2020. Those SUVs are just getting a tad smaller and cheaper, opening the company up to many more buyers.

NIO Charging & Battery Swapping

Unlike every other automaker, NIO supplemented the charging option for its electric vehicles by launching a battery swapping system, a network which currently has swapping stations in 62 cities. NIO calls this service “Power Swap” and it takes just 3 minutes — faster than fueling a fossil-fueled SUV.

Going one step further, NIO is offering customers a “Power Plan,” in which they can have someone come and recharge their vehicle for them up to 15 times a month. This service is complimentary with any NIO vehicle.

Last but not least on the charging front, NIO decided to offer a luxury-class charging service for road trips. “NIO offers you lifetime free nationwide charging services when you are up to 200km away from your home cities.” However, there are some limits — you can use this benefit up to twice in a month and up to 12 times in a year.

NIO Lifestyle

NIO is big on offering a way of life, not just cars, and has a NIO Life arm. “Life is food, music, exploration. Life is being together, living well, learning. Life is where you go, how you dress, the joy you feel. To shape a joyful lifestyle,” the company writes. We’re not a fashion/clothing website, so we don’t have much to say on this, but the Life arm of the business seems to just be a high-class, hip fashion side show.

NIO House is actually where more of the lifestyle stuff seems to come into play, as it has built “clubs” for people to enjoy. Each “club” includes a “living room,” forums, “labs” (shared workspace), libraries, cafes, kids areas (called “camps”), and car galleries, of course. It’s unclear at this stage how popular these clubs are, but the concept certainly goes far beyond a typical auto dealership or store and promotes this idea of NIO being about a certain lifestyle.

NIO Sales

The company has gotten off to a relatively fast start and just produced its 50,000th vehicle.

It also just set sales records in May and in June.

The NIO ES6 was the 5th best selling electric vehicle in May in China, and likely landed in a similar ranking in June, but we don’t yet have the full country breakdown for June.

In 2018, NIO reportedly had 8,111 sales. In 2019 — 29,076. In the first half of 2020 — 14,169.

NIO Models

ES8: The first true model NIO launched was the ES8, a large luxury SUV that seats 6 or 7 people. It is extremely quick, one of the quickest SUVs ever produced, and has been outselling the more expensive Tesla Model X in China.

Photo by CleanTechnica

ES6: The ES6 is a bit smaller and cheaper than the ES8. The midsize luxury SUV seats 5 and, let’s be frank, looks even better than the ES8. It is quick and luxurious, like its big brother. As noted above, it was the 5th best selling electric vehicle in China in May, and is the 6th best selling EV in the country this year so far.

NIO Day EC6 Unveiling. Photo: Nicolas Zart CleanTechnica

Photo by Nicolas Zart, CleanTechnica

EC6: Slightly smaller than the ES6 and expected to be cheaper, the EC6 is a midsize crossover-coupé. It could very likely end up on the top 5 list in coming months, if not a podium positions.

Upcoming vehicle models other than the EC6 include the EF9 minivan (7 or 8 seats), ES3 subcompact SUV, ET5 compact sedan (seats 4), and ET7 midsize sedan (seats 4). The EC6, ET5, and ET7 are supposed to go into production in 2020, while the EF9 and ES3 are supposed to go into production in 2021.

EP9: Only 6 of these electric supercars have been sold, and those have gone to investors for £2,500,000 each. However, NIO has announced that 10 will also be produced and sold to members of the general public. The two-seat sports car was developed with the assistance of the NextEV/NIO Formula E racing team. (NextEV was the original name of the company, before rebranded to NIO.) The EP9’s specs are extremely hard to beat:

  • 0–100 km/h (62 mph) in 2.7 seconds
  • 0–200 km/h (124 mph) in 7.1 seconds
  • 0–300 km/h (186 mph) in 15.9 seconds
  • top speed = 350 km/h (217 mph)

The EP9 has set 5 records for electric cars on race tracks, achieving lap records for in the Nürburgring Nordschleife, the Circuit Paul Ricard, the Circuit of the Americas, and the Shanghai International Circuit.

Autonomous Driving

Like every other auto company to some extent, NIO is racing to be an autonomous driving leader. The company’s “NIO Pilot” is currently a level 2 driver-assist system with “lane keepingadaptive cruise controllane departure warningautomatic emergency braking, highway pilot, traffic Jam pilot, auto lane change and more.” However, much bigger plans are in the works.

“NIO Pilot sensor suite consists of a trifocal forward camera, 5 radars, 12 ultrasonic sensors and a driver monitor camera. NIO was the first automaker to launch a car model utilizing Mobileye’s EyeQ4 vision chip.” NIO and Mobileye, now owned fully by Intel, launched a partnership in November 2019 aimed at getting NIO vehicles to level 4 autonomy by 2022. We’ll see if NIO can hit that target, which should make it one of the world leaders in self-driving vehicle technology.

NIO Stock

In September 2018, nearly 4 years after its birth and after selling just 481 vehicles, NIO went public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), filing for a $1.8 billion IPO (initial public offering). Its closing stock price the day the company went public, September 14 (2018) was $9.90, but then dropped in price for several months and the market was concerned about the company’s ability to produce and sell vehicles at high volume. Until 2020, its peak after that was in March 2019 at a price of $10.06

The stock price dripped all the way down to $1.51 in October 2019. It rose a little bit in January 2020, and then grew at a rapid pace in June and July of 2020.

NIO Founders & Investors

NIO was founded by William Li in November 2014, six short years ago, when Li was 40 years old. Li is also the CEO of NIO and the Chairman of Bitauto and NextEV.

The company also has investments from Tencent, Temasek, Baidu, Sequoia, Lenovo, and TPG.

NIO website:


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