NIO Enters the International Stage — Not Your Common Carmaker

NIO logo design

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This text is a co-production of Maarten Vinkhuyzen and Chanan Bos

NIO is the brand new child on the block. And it’s totally different from all the opposite new youngsters which are attempting to slot in. There may be room for everybody, however NIO wants some further introduction. It isn’t simply one other thirteen-a-dozen Chinese language electrical carmaker. NIO’s first international market is Norway. This yr NIO will open NIO homes within the Netherlands (Rotterdam), Germany, Sweden, and the UK. By 2025, NIO goals to be current in 25 markets, the USA possible amongst them.

NIO is aiming on the market section that’s served by the Porsche model and the highest of the Audi model. Neither is competing with the Tesla Mannequin 3 & Y. NIO will launch a sub-brand to compete with Tesla. That may serve the amount segments the place VW and decrease Audi/BMW fashions are dominating. That is distinctive, a startup that’s going to compete with the likes of Lexus and the highest German luxurious manufacturers.

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NIO EP9 supercar.

The very first thing NIO did was construct a $3 million supercar (NIO EP9) to gather some world information on the toughest circuits. There may be one within the showroom of the NIO Home in Oslo. Subsequent got here the event of an SUV (the NIO ES8). As compared with the large electrical SUVs of Audi and Porsche, it’s a matter of style (and cash) what to decide on. NIO’s pricing could be very aggressive. The opposite fashions NIO is launching are for a similar excessive luxurious, top quality, and excessive value segments. By going for the highest of the market, NIO is attacking the stigma all new international entrants to European and North American markets carry with them routinely.

This isn’t even the most important approach during which NIO units itself other than different electrical carmakers, startups, and the previous guard alike.

nio logo design

The NIO philosophy is conveyed in its brand: The highest represents the sky, openness, imaginative and prescient, and the longer term. The underside represents the earth, course, motion, and ahead momentum.

NIO is totally different as a result of it appears to be like on the world in a different way. Tesla is totally different in the way in which it’s vertically built-in. NIO is totally different as a result of it’s holistic. Different OEMs go away buyer relations to the sellers and vitality distribution to the gasoline and grid corporations. NIO appears to be like at these because the NIO neighborhood and serving it with Battery as a Service (BaaS).

The BaaS actions of NIO are threefold. First, there may be the chain of quick charging stations, similar to Tesla has. Secondly, NIO has a fleet of cell comfort and roadside help charging items. They’re simply vans with an enormous battery within the trunk that may assist you if you end up out of juice in the course of nowhere or don’t have the time to go to a charger.

Third is the most important service NIO has developed. They resurrected battery swapping as a viable expertise to reinforce charging when touring. NIO realized that the one technique to do it proper was in a totally automated swapping station. The swap is completed in below 5 minutes, together with coming into and leaving the station.

However for actual success, the way in which NIO builds a neighborhood of customers and supporters is probably much more essential.

Not like different manufacturers, NIO has not but constructed up shopper relations with auto sellers, and doesn’t have large fan golf equipment like these began spontaneously round Tesla (and in addition helped by some good buyer assist managers and made right into a stronghold by the PR and twitter genius of Elon Musk). NIO doesn’t have the “first out of the gate” benefit Tesla had, and whereas their CEO can be a star performer, that’s solely inside NIO’s in-app social media. NIO has a plan and systematically executes it. The NIO Homes will not be dealerships — they’re neighborhood homes, with neighborhood actions.

Even for individuals who don’t drive a automobile, it’s engaging to change into a member of the NIO neighborhood. It has many advantages apart from assembly different NIO drivers. The core is the NIO social media app, the place NIO neighborhood members can work together.

nio house oslo norway

The NIO Home is located on the floor flooring and within the basement.

And NIO is a automobile model with quite a few fashions and perks for the homeowners. There may be the lifetime guarantee, lifetime route service, lifetime connectivity. Although, we’re not clear whether or not that is for the lifetime of the automobile or the time it’s owned by the unique proprietor. However nonetheless, it appears to be like extra like a philanthropic establishment than a business firm. It appears to be like like NIO has discovered a non-standard technique to change into very large and really worthwhile.

Whether or not this enterprise mannequin works with common prospects when early adopters change into a minority, time will inform.

Battery as a Service

Whereas “Energy as a Service” would have been a greater acronym than “Battery as a Service,” PaaS was already in widespread use, referring to Platform as a Service. That’s the reason the world will realize it as BaaS.

NIO has now deployed BaaS in China with some extremely giant numbers. That’s till you understand how tremendously large China is. China is about 4 instances the USA and 80 instances the Netherlands. I’ll use these two nations as a reference.

BaaS is made attainable by vehicle-battery product separation. The automobile is offered by one firm, the battery is rented from and charged by one other firm. Batteries have a standardized exterior measurement and interface. They’ll have totally different capacities. Lately, a 150kWh model was added to the catalog. It may be put in in all current automobile fashions. Your three-year-old SUV can now have a 150kWh battery. You should use a less expensive small battery for day by day use and hire an excellent giant battery for the vacations.

nio 2nd gen power swap station 2

Battery swap station displaying the batteries in inventory.

Swapping. The totally automated swapping station replaces your battery in fewer than 5 minutes. The variety of these stations is nearing a 1,000 in China and rising quick. The capability of a swapping station is akin to a charging station with 4–6 high-power charger (HPC) stalls. Each can present vitality to about 12 automobiles per hour.

In instances of low demand, the swapping stations could make their storage capability accessible for grid stability companies, creating an additional income for NIO and an incentive to lawmakers which are managing the transition to renewable vitality.

Different carmakers are requested to take part on this system and the Chinese language authorities is being lobbied to assist normalize this customary and velocity up adoption. It’s too early to make any prediction in regards to the potential success of this idea, however it’s a very distinctive answer for individuals dwelling in condominium complexes who can’t cost their vehicles at dwelling.

Charging. For charging, there are over 800 charging stations and rising in China. Earlier than you fall off your seat in awe, that’s simply over 200 chargers when in comparison with the dimensions of the USA and solely 10 for a rustic the dimensions of the Netherlands. Tesla has over 1500 Supercharger stations within the USA, and Fastned has about 150 Dutch stations. Even then, the Tesla USA and Dutch Fastned networks will not be almost large enough to satisfy upcoming demand because the transition to electrical vehicles continues accelerating.

Rescuing. When in the course of nowhere with a flat battery, simply contact the NIO Energy service utilizing the app, and a cell charging unit involves the rescue. Too good to be true? Unsuitable!

nio power mobile van 2

NIO Energy cell charging station

The cell charging service is made worthwhile by its day by day work as a charging valet service. Once you don’t really feel like charging in your approach dwelling, or the charger is out of your approach, name the NIO Energy valet service. Whilst you maintain doing what you might be doing, the cell charger will go to your automobile and cost it. No gasoline station can do it in much less time — and with out going out of your approach or being attacked by the smells of gasoline.

Neighborhood

NIO App. The app is the glue of the NIO neighborhood. Moreover the identical capabilities one expects from each carmaker’s app, connecting to your automobile and managing companies, there’s a giant half that could be a social media platform. The NIO app connects you with different NIO app customers and affords an on-line retailer for its merchandise. It additionally has the on-line vendor capabilities integrated for a car-buying expertise like supplied by Tesla.

nio app 2

NIO app screens.

NIO Home. The NIO home isn’t a dealership. It’s a neighborhood middle. You will see that a library, espresso bar, kids’s play nook, assembly rooms, working areas, and infrequently a ping-pong desk. In a single nook, the NIO vehicles can be on show. Whereas there are automobile individuals on your automobile oriented wants, you in all probability higher not ask the barista to schedule a service appointment on your automobile.

nio house features oslo norway

One of many neighborhood areas within the Oslo NIO Home.

NIO Life. The NIO life-style is about dwelling the nice life and doing it in a pleasant and accountable approach, and a part of that’s their merchandise retailer that isn’t restricted to simply merchandise and it’s referred to as NIO Life. The core values are committing to scrub vitality; following the ideas of a round financial system, truthful commerce, respect for and safety of human rights; utilizing suppliers with the identical values; and having enjoyable. Briefly, do enterprise in an moral approach. Oh, and don’t forget to make the merchandise lovely and style nice. NIO collaborates with over 500 designers and product builders. The NIO app can be a mini Amazon or Alibaba.

NIO NoMi. NoMi is the title on your in-car AI digital assistant. She/He asks you to get to know her/him. “Know Me.” The performance of NoMi, as is the case with each AI, is rising. Placing it within the NIO “Neighborhood” chapter is predicated on a hunch. I can see NoMi merge into the NIO app, however nobody can resist this little assistant’s cuteness.

nomi2

Hello, I’m NoMi. What can I do for you right this moment?

NIO rewards program. Loyalty applications have existed for ages. More often than not, you get small rewards after years of spending cash. That’s, till Tesla kicked off its referral program. All of the sudden, by having individuals use your referral hyperlink, you might even save up sufficient new factors for a Tesla Roadster or two. That’s, you probably have a Tesla to start with. NIO’s level system makes this and every other loyalty program you might have seen up to now seem to be a joke. To begin with, you don’t have to personal a NIO. The corporate desires you to be a part of and really feel welcome of their neighborhood even in the event you don’t have a automobile. Perhaps you might be there since you like NIO’s vehicles, possibly you downloaded the app as a result of your buddy took you to a yoga or portray class on the NIO home. Simply downloading and establishing your profile offers you sufficient factors to get a free espresso on the NIO cafe on the ground above the multipurpose room.

So, what are you able to do to earn factors in NIO’s system? Every kind of issues — from minor stuff like opening the app as soon as a day, inviting associates to strive the app, establishing your profile, utilizing the embedded social media performance, charging, driving, shopping for a NIO, referring somebody to check drive or purchase a NIO, and way more.

The identical goes to spending factors. You possibly can spend it on the NIO Cafe, you may spend it on merchandise, you may spend it on every kind of issues. NIO has a various providing in its app, like wine and presents, with new stuff entering into and previous out of the shop frequently. In truth, they usually wish to accomplice with native artists for restricted collection merchandise. There are occasions on the town that NIO is sponsoring, like a basketball sport you could go to utilizing your factors. Nevertheless, most significantly, you may spend your NIO factors on stuff like quick charging, NIO Energy, service pickup, designated drivers, in addition to different third celebration companies supplied within the app — they’ll all be paid for with NIO Factors.

Simply on your understanding, 1,000 factors is roughly 12 euros, which signifies that referring one particular person to purchase a automobile is 144 euros. Simply by opening the app, whether or not it’s to regulate your automobile or test social media, doing this simply as soon as day-after-day for two weeks is sufficient without cost espresso. When you consider it as a chore, that could possibly be tiresome, however in the event you see it as the identical factor as opening Twitter or Instagram, then out of the blue as soon as a day looks as if virtually nothing. Total, the extra you have interaction with any side of NIO, the extra factors you get.

In addition they promote vehicles!

Final however not least, NIO is a automobile model. The title of this paragraph is a reference to a Heinlein story about an organization that was very diversified in its companies to its prospects. Their service to their prospects was all encompassing, and their prospects got here first. Their service to their prospects ranged from organizing interplanetary conferences to strolling canine. “We additionally stroll canine” was their advert slogan and motto.

There at the moment are 6 fashions which are in manufacturing or which are manufacturing prepared, and gross sales are rising quick. This yr, almost 38,000 vehicles had been delivered within the first 5 months. Covid and provide chain prepared, over a 100,000 deliveries are possible this yr. NIO can deliver this many vehicles to market in only a few years as a result of the precise manufacturing is outsourced to JAC. Very similar to Jaguar outsourced its manufacturing of the I-PACE to Magna-Steyr and Tesla as soon as upon a time meant to outsource its manufacturing.

nio jac factory entrance

JAC and NIO manufacturing facility entrance.

A decade after Tesla found that there have been no corporations that knew easy methods to construct an electrical automobile, there are a variety of corporations succesful to supply this service to NIO in China. NIO makes the designs and the software program and can be accountable for procurement and the availability chain. China’s JAC places all of it collectively. After manufacturing, NIO follows up with gross sales and distribution. In essence, NIO has outsourced the “Manufacturing Hell” that delayed the arrival of recent fashions from Tesla, VW, and Mercedes available on the market. Nevertheless, what’s fascinating to notice is that whereas the imaginative and prescient comes from NIO China, the design comes from their German group, NIO’s {hardware} from their UK group, and the programming comes from their group in Silicon Valley.

NIO builds luxurious vehicles. Nevertheless, luxurious is a misleading description. For some, the minimalist Tesla inside is the peak of luxurious. Others like their automobile cockpit to resemble the cockpit of a jumbo jet. For NIO, it’s a plethora of capabilities, managed both via the NoMi digital assistant, the touchscreen, or by well-placed controls which are simply and even blindly reachable. The interior supplies are smooth, lovely, and environmentally pleasant. Oblique lighting, a superior sound system, multi zone air-conditioning, and sufficient cupholders make it a really luxurious inside.

EP9 Supercar. Instantly after launching the model, NIO entered the highest of the market with the Electrical Efficiency 9 (EP9). The EP9’s process was to get the eye of automobile lovers. Solely a handful are produced and they aren’t highway authorized. Their use is restricted to joyriding on the race circuits world wide.

nio ep9 on circuit race track

NIO EP9 supercar in its pure surroundings.

The automobile is made from carbon-fiber each externally and internally. Its 4 motors ship 250kW every. The efficiency is superior sufficient to get the Nurburg Ring Nordschleife file for electrical vehicles.

ES8, ES7, and ES6 SUVs. The primary actual vehicles NIO designed (not produced — that’s carried out by JAC) had been the ES8 and ES6 SUVs. The ES8 is a three-row large tank on the highway. The ES6 is its two-row “little” brother. The latter is in the identical class because the BMW iX3 and the Tesla Mannequin Y. They’ve the standard boxlike design of the primary Vary Rover tremendous utility automobile. And whereas writing this text, one other NIO SUV has entered the market. It’s the ES7, which is positioned between the ES8 and ES6.

nio footbed watermarked

Do you see the leg relaxation? That’s my form of luxurious.

I did drive the ES8 in Oslo, and it was an absolute pleasure. The heads-up show let me maintain my eyes on the highway whereas giving me important data. Once I sat as a passenger within the center row, my bloated physique did have sufficient room, and the doorways had been extensive sufficient to get out and in. I’m previous, too extensive round my center, with joints that don’t wish to bend any extra, and I’m a male. Many trendy vehicles will not be for me, as a result of I can’t get in or out and the seats are too slim, all of which isn’t an issue with the NIO ES8. Hopefully that places my feedback into perspective.

All three of those vehicles deserve a full-length evaluate. And actually, I’m a awful automobile reviewer. Fortunately, I’ve a colleague who’s in Nirvana when supplied such a beast for a number of days to evaluate. So, be sure to take a look at his article and video evaluate of the ES8, coming quickly to a website close to you.

EC6 SUV Coupe. The 2 boxy SUVs had been joined by a SUV coupe referred to as EC6 in 2020. That is the actual Mannequin Y competitor. The NIO is a bit longer, wider, and better. Even the sunroof is the most important in its class. Efficiency can be in the identical class, one thing most Tesla opponents can’t say.

nio ec6 side

The SUV “coupe” line. A part of the again is reduce off.

What could be very totally different, nonetheless, is the inside design. The NIO follows the corporate’s concepts about luxurious. For instance, there may be an clever air perfume system. I hope it has an “Off” perform. (It does.)

ET7 and ET5 Touring Automobiles. The most recent additions to the lineup are the ET7 and ET5 sedan fashions. These will not be metropolis vehicles, however reasonably long-distance tour vehicles made for the lengthy highway journeys many dream about … however few truly make. Battery capability, simply as with all NIO fashions, is as much as 150 kWh, accessible once you want it via BaaS and the battery swap system.

rear seats

Room sufficient on the rear seats, made for touring.

The ET7 began deliveries this spring and is the present greatest vendor. The competitors is the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Collection. Each are looking for a spot within the electrical automobile market, a market section the place electrical is clearly superior however the place the conservative shopping for public wants some extra time to appreciate this.

The ET7 has a Mobileye-powered autonomous driving suite utilizing 33 sensors. How autonomous this method actually is right this moment isn’t clear from the documentation. It’s possible a really superior “stage 2” or “stage 3” ADAS system.

The ET7 will in all probability get to Europe subsequent yr. NIO will then be current in at the very least 5 European markets. My colleague can’t wait to check one.

interior 4

The view from the rear seats.

The ET5 is anticipated in China later this yr. It’s the NIO competitor to the Mannequin 3. Watch for opinions when it will get to European and American markets.

Full Disclosure

NIO offered airline tickets and an evening in the most effective resort in Oslo. It additionally included lunch in a fish restaurant with a Michelin point out. The NIO hospitality in Oslo was good. It was my first go to to the town. I now realize it has an airport, a prepare station, a resort, a NIO home, and a few highways. I’d have most well-liked to journey to Oslo in my very own automobile and keep at a B&B like I usually do — attending to know the town at the very least a little bit bit. However the communication with NIO earlier than the occasion was so troublesome that I ended up in a nightmarish flight from Frankfurt to Oslo and a worse journey dwelling. This kind of sponsored go to was a one-time factor, however by no means once more.

I did go to Oslo once more for EVS35, this time by driving my Renault ZOE from Holland to Oslo. NIO Home was now stuffed with vacationers and automobile consumers. Oslo is an enchanting metropolis and I didn’t have sufficient time to essentially discover it — EVS35 was 16 kilometers from the Oslo middle. I’ve to return to go to it a 3rd time. Town appears to be like definitely worth the effort.

All photos courtesy of NIO.


 

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