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China's Tesla Rival NIO Begins Deliveries of its New ET7 Flagship Electric Sedan

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【Summary】​Electric vehicle startup NIO Inc, which is one of Tesla’s main competitors in China, announced that deliveries of its new flagship ET7 sedan have officially started. Representatives of NIO delivered the first ET7s to customers at the company’s headquarters in Hefei, China on March 28.

FutureCar Staff    Mar 28, 2022 4:30 PM PT
China's Tesla Rival NIO Begins Deliveries of its New ET7 Flagship Electric Sedan
NIO's new flagship ET7 electric sedan.

Electric vehicle startup NIO, which is one of Tesla's main competitors in China, announced that deliveries of its new flagship ET7 sedan have officially started. Representatives of NIO delivered the first ET7s to customers at the company's headquarters in Hefei, China on March 28.

The ET7 is based on a concept vehicle that NIO first unveiled at Auto China 2019. The competitively-priced sedan is poised to become a direct competitor to Tesla's Model 3 and Model S in China, as well as the P7 Smart Sedan from NIO's domestic rival Xpeng Inc.

The ET7 is NIO's first model built on its second-generation EV technology platform dubbed "NT2.0". The ET7 comes standard with over 100 comfort, safety and smart technology features, including a brand-new vehicle software architecture that support's over-the-air-updates that allows NIO to add new features and functions as they are developed.

ET7 customers will be offered a subscription service for NIO Autonomous Driving (NAD), the company's autonomous driving feature that's similar to Tesla's Autopilot. It's expected to be available in the fourth quarter of this year.

The ET7 also features Dolby Atmos audio technology. NIO is the world's second automaker to offer Dolby Atmos audio technology after Lucid Motors, which powers the audio system of the Lucid Air sedan.

The ET7 is powered by a 100kWh battery pack featuring CTP ("cell-to-pack") technology jointly developed with Chinese battery maker CATL. The design improves space utilization by 19.8%, resulting in 37% higher energy density, according to NIO. The new battery pack also includes improved thermal management. 

CTP batteries eliminate the use of bundling thousands of individual cells into battery modules. Instead the cells are directly fitted into the battery housing, which streamlines production and reduces weight.

The ET7 also features a silicon carbide (SiC) inverter, which offers higher efficiency gains compared with conventional inverters using silicon semiconductors because they produce less heat and are less temperature-sensitive. SiC EV powertrains also have lower cooling demands and a smaller form factor, making them ideal for electric vehicles where size and weight are concerns.

By using a SiC inverter to control the current flow, more power is available at the wheels, so the ET7's powertrain can be made smaller, lighter and operate more efficiently. This reduction in weight translates to a longer range, but also allows for smaller electric motors to be used without sacrificing output. 

The NIO ET7 comes with a 180 kW permanent magnet motor for the front wheels and a 300 kW induction motor in the rear. The maximum power is rated at 480kW. The EV can go from 0 to 60mph in under 4 seconds. However, by using NIO's new second-generation high-efficiency powertrain with a SiC power module, the vehicle's energy efficiency can be further improved.

NIO's EVs are unique, as the battery is designed to be swapped out for a fully-charged one at one of the company's NIO Power battery swapping stations, which are opening in cities across China

Rather than plugging in and waiting to fully charge a NIO vehicle, the battery can be removed and replaced in a highly automated process that takes as little as 3 minutes.

Ahead of the launch, NIO opened up ET7 test drives on March 5 in more than 80 cities in China to allow customers to try out the new ET7 in person. NIO said the test drives were highly successful, with a higher than expected test drive-to-order conversion rate.

NIO has plans for global expansion. In June 2021, NIO announced it received approval to sell its first model, the fully-electric ES8 SUV, in Europe. It paves the way for the company's global expansion.

In December, NIO held its annual "NIO Day" in China where it unveiled its smaller ET5 sedan, which will follow the new ET7. The ET5 is NIO's fifth electric model, joining the ES6 compact SUV, EC6 fastback.

The new mid-size ET5 will also compete with the Tesla Model 3 and other similar EVs in China. The battery-powered sedan is priced at RMB 328,000 (US$51,445) before subsidies, and RMB 258,000 (US$40,466) with BaaS (Battery-as-a-Service). 

Deliveries of the new ET5 are expected to start in Sept 2022. 

In Aug 2020, NIO launched its unique BaaS monthly subscription plan. It allows customers to pay a monthly fee for the battery that's separate from the vehicle's purchase price. The BaaS plan is designed to lower the upfront purchase price of an electric vehicle, so its more affordable. 

NIO is a U.S.-listed company and launched its IPO in Sept 2018. The company's shares are listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the symbol "NIO".

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