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2017-12-19

NIO ES8 crossover revealed, with a 220-mile range and battery swapping




After showing what was apparently a production-ready version of the ES8 at the Shanghai Auto Show this year, Chinese electric car company NIO has revealed key details of the new crossover. This is the second road-ready vehicle from the company, previously known for its Nürburgring-record smashing EP9 hypercar. This practical, seven-passenger crossover is a significant departure, but should still be entertaining, in part due to its dual electric motors. They supply about 644 horsepower and about 620 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels. They also propel the all-aluminum ES8 to 62 mph in a claimed 4.4 seconds. The ES8 rides on air suspension and stops via four-piston Brembo brakes that will halt the car from 62 mph in a claimed 111 feet.
Seeing as the ES8 is an electric vehicle, the big question beyond performance is range. NIO says the crossover is good for about 220 miles on the European test cycle. Usually, the European cycle returns higher range numbers than the U.S. cycle. For instance, the Chevy Bolt EV is rated at just over 230 miles of range, but its identical twin in Europe, the Opel Ampera-E, is rated for over 330 miles. So while 220 miles doesn't sound too bad, keep in mind it's likely a higher number than if it were tested here.
Despite the unexciting range, the ES8 has a distinct advantage over other electric cars: Owners can swap batteries. The company says a battery swap can be done in three minutes, and the company intends to build 1,100 stations for swapping by 2020. As good as a Tesla Supercharger is, it still isn't as fast as a battery change. It appears the company will also offer a service in which a van can be deployed to your car to provide a 10-minute charge for an extra 62 miles of range. Presumably this would be useful for emergencies or when in remote areas so that you have enough charge to reach a charging station or battery change station.
As for the more subjective things such as design, we think the NIO ES8 is actually rather handsome. We do detect some hints of Faraday Future and Hyundai fuel-cell crossover design cues in the headlights and the wide, flat nose, but otherwise it's a sharp SUV. It's fairly well proportioned, and the smooth flanks accented by the flush door handles are attractive and modern. Inside is what you would expect from a car trying to seem forward-looking; it has a big tablet-esque screen for the center stack and an LCD display for the instruments. The air vents are one long, unbroken styling element similar to what we've seen in Audis. The front passenger seat is quite unique, though, in that it rivals the rear passenger-side seat in many flagship sedans. It reclines, but it also has a La-Z-Boy style leg rest that rises up from the front. The seat slides way back, which not only allows for copious amounts of legroom, but NIO also suggests it can be handy for a parent to reach his or her child in the back.
The ES8 goes on sale first in China, and the company will start by taking pre-orders. The base price is the equivalent of about $67,700, and 10,000 Founder's Edition models will be sold for about $82,800. Buyers can get a roughly $15,000 discount by signing up for a battery rental program that will allow for battery upgrades in the future and roadside assistance among other things. NIO says the rental program costs about $120 a month. NIO has also previously said it's considering selling the ES8 in the U.S., but no clear timeline has been presented yet.