By on October 15, 2018

Nio, originally launched as NextEV in 2014, announced that it had delivered 3,268 electric SUVs in the third quarter of 2018. Not only does this beg the question of when Nio swapped from Formula E and electrified hypercars to utility vehicles, but it also makes us wonder how a burgeoning EV firm managed to surpass production goals. Aren’t all zero-emission automobiles that aren’t developed by established automakers supposed to languish in purgatory?

Answering the first question is easy. Nio started deliveries of the ES8 crossover last June, though it still sells the high-performance EP9 for $1.2 million. We doubt that model provided any significant contributions to overall volume in Q3. The trickier bit of this equation is figuring out how the Nio moved all that metal. While 3,200 cars is a paltry some for a mainstream manufacturer, it’s pretty damn good for a company that just started building a volume electric. Even Tesla would have been envious in 2012. 

Like a lot of Chinese automotive startups, Nio has been getting cash from the government. However, according to Reuters, the brunt of its initial funding came from the Asian tech-giant Tencent Holdings — which invests in just about anything focused on the future. It also raised $1 billion during its initial public offering last month. Included in the investor’s list was Baillie Gifford, who acquired an 11.4-percent stake in the company. Apparently, having a big-time Tesla investor made the market react accordingly. Share prices shot up 22 percent earlier this month, yielding Gifford an instantaneous profit.

Nio’s influx of fresh capital will go toward readying the smaller ES6 (due in the summer of 2019) and ensuring it can make good on the nearly 16,000 reservations for the ES8. Despite a relatively modest production capabilities and planned idling for Chinese holidays, Nio still claims it can manage 10,000 ES8 deliveries by year’s end.

Nio’s early success isn’t simply a matter of attracting the right backers. It’s also building the kind of car that gets well-paid tech heads tugging at their pants … so they can whip out their wallets. The ES8 is said to play host to a manufacturer-claimed 643 horsepower and 619 pound-feet of torque. That puts it in position to reach 60 mph in roughly 4.5 seconds. It is also said to be capable of over 200 miles when its 70 kWh battery is fully charged, and measures about 198 inches in length. That’s just about the perfect size, shape, and speed for the current market’s taste for premium EVs.

At $86,880 (in yuan) for the fully loaded Founder’s Edition, that’s also the right price. However, Nio has said it’s working on a less-expensive variant that should come in around $68,000. Both models are said to be equipped with its adorable AI system that lives in a bubble on top of the dashboard, affectionately known as Nomi.

The company is currently attempting to figure out how to best translate Nomi for the American market, as it would like to begin selling vehicles here in 2020. With a U.S.-China trade war currently at full pitch, that might not be a realistic goal. Also, Nio planning on selling its vehicles directly to customers via the internet. Still, it’s a company to watch, as it appears to have crested the first hill that most EV firms typically die on.

[Image: Nio]

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