Chinese Unicorn launches electric SUV and battery swapping charging network

China NIO has launched the ES8 sports utility vehicle which has a range of 500 kilometers (311 miles) on a single charge and costs 448,000 yuan ($67,783). In China the Tesla Model X costs 836,000 yuan for Tesla’s Model X, and the gasoline powered BMW X5 costs 596,300 yuan.

The seven-seater ES8 can accelerate to 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) in 4.4 seconds, according to the company. The braking distance of the SUV, equipped with 5 millimeter wave radars, is 33.8 meters (111 feet).

Owners of the ES8 can charge their car by swapping batteries at power-swap stations in three minutes or recharge with the help of “Power Mobile” service vehicles that travel to motorists.

NIO has raised more than $1 billion from investors led by Tencent Holdings. NIO is preparing for its next phase of growth in the world’s biggest electric-car market. In addition to Tesla, the company will be competing against homegrown rivals such as BYD Co., as well as industry giants Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co.

NIO plans to build more than 1,100 power-swap stations in China by 2020 and have more than 1,200 “Power Mobile” service vehicles. A battery-swap station can be assembled within a day, said Li. The carmaker will also offer other free services including road rescue.

China already has the world’s largest charging network

A total of 167,000 charging piles have now been connected to the telematics platform of the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), making it the world’s largest electric vehicle (EV) charging network.

By cooperating with 17 charging station operators, the SGCC now offers more than 1 million kilowatt-hours of power each day. In addition, users can complete their payment for the service within the system.

China has built the largest EV charging network in the world to date, with the highest number of facilities, the broadest coverage, and the most advanced technology.

Statistics show that SGCC has built 5,526 charging and battery swap stations and more than 40,000 charging piles since 2006, with a fast-charging motorway network that covers 121 cities in 16 provinces. The average distance between two stations is less than 50 kilometers.

SGCC plans to expand its own charging pile count to 120,000 by 2020, and the inter-city fast charging network will cover Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shandong, all cities in the Yangtze River Delta, and 202 major cities in other regions.

According to SGCC Spokesperson Wang Yanfang, the company will reduce the maximum distance between charging stations to less than 5 kilometers in suburban areas, less than 3 kilometers in inner suburbs, and less than 1 kilometer in urban areas.