Following a huge spike in the Chinese electric vehicle market, NIO capitalises on its very positive market position as it enters 2021 and launches its first autonomous driving model, the smart electric flagship sedan, NIO ET7.
Revealed at ‘NIO Day’ in Chengdu, China on the 9th of January, it features the company’s latest self-driving software and improved battery technology, further shifting the consumer market into an autonomous and electric future. By 2022, the ET7 will be on the road, making a huge statement on the global stage.
To find out more, Auto Futures catches up again with Hui Zhang, the Vice President of NIO Europe.
“Over 260 users joined the event planning and organisation, while around 200 users in Chengdu voluntarily picked up users and guests from across the country,” he says of NIO Day. “As well as performances from the NIO band, playing the NIO song ‘Always forward,’ the event saw founder William Li addressed our users explaining the features of the ET7.”
Taking on Europe’s Premium Giants
So where does the ET7 fit into the NIO line-up? Firstly, it will be the brand’s first-ever sedan, aimed at competing with European rivals that have dominated the market for decades. Secondly, it will challenge other rivals which are developing self-driving technology and new driving experiences, utilising premium design and innovations to make it a leader in the sector. As a much younger company, NIO is able to operate with a blank canvas, building innovative products that push the boundaries of transport.
“The ET7 revealed at NIO Day is our first sedan model, and also the first with the autonomous driving capability,” continues Zhang. “We perceive that our competitors are the German premium brands such as BMW, Mercedes and Audi. Alongside our sporty performance, autonomous driving, the ET7 is full of new technology. From invisible air vents, sustainable rattan materials and doors that soft open and close, this is a very advanced flagship car.”
The ET7 features NIO’s latest NAD (NIO Autonomous Driving) technology based on NIO Aquila Super Sensing and NIO Adam Supercomputer. NAD brings safer and more relaxing autonomous driving initially from point A to point B, but it will gradually cover other scenarios such as on highways, in cities, parking lots and, eventually, NIO’s revolutionary battery swap stations.
“To achieve this, NIO has built up the NAD full-stack autonomous driving capability including perception algorithms, localisation, control strategy and platform software,” says Zhang. “Our Aquila Super Sensing features 33 high-performance sensing units, including 11 8MP high-resolution cameras, one ultralong-range high-resolution LiDAR, five-millimetre wave radars, 12 ultrasonic sensors, two high-precision positioning units, V2X and ADMS. Aquila can generate 8GB data per second. NIO Adam features four Nvidia Orin SoCs with a total computing power of 1,016 TOPS.”
Preparing for the EV Revoution
With a 70-kWh battery pack, the ET7 has an NEDC range of over 500 km, or over 700 km with a 100-kWh battery. When coupled with the new 150 kWh battery, the ET7 boasts an NEDC range over 1,000 km. The newest 150kWh pack will use ultra-high energy density solid-state cells to achieve a 50% increase in energy density.
In addition, NIO is building on the success of its first ‘swap station’ innovation, which has revolutionised the way electric vehicles are used. Now in its second edition, NIO is further establishing a unique supporting infrastructure for its entire lineup.
“We announced the second-generation battery swap stations, Power Swap Station 2.0, ready to provide freshly charged batteries for all NIO vehicles, including the ES8, ES6, EC6 and upcoming ET7,” explains Zhang. “We plan to install a network of 500 stations in China by the end of 2021.”
Each station has 14 slots, including 13 battery packs and an empty slot, to pick up a discharged battery or previous generation battery when upgrading. Each station can now provide up to 312 battery swaps per day, which is three times more than the previous generation. Quite frankly, this is an outstanding innovation that has unlimited potential going forward and explicitly provides a solution to the challenges of managing electric vehicles once they secure a larger market share.
Although deliveries are scheduled for the start of 2022, NIO is taking pre-orders now for the ET7, ranging from 448,000 yuan (approximately £50,700) for the base 70kWh model to 526,000 yuan (£59,500) for the ‘Premier Edition’.