When I was in China a couple of years ago, I called a taxi and it turned out to be a Tesla. That was not an anomaly, but indicative of China quickly moving to electric cars in a very big way. China recently announced it’s considering a total ban on gasoline cars over the next several years as a way to promote the use of more electric and non-gasoline powered cars. China now has some of the most polluted cities in the world and this is how the government intends to tackle this issue.
But not only are electric cars important for health reasons, the government push is intended to strengthen the Chinese auto industry to become a major exporter of electric cars to the rest of the world. The country is already the leader in solar and battery technology.
In anticipation of a trend to all-electric cars, one car company has already introduced a Tesla competitor. Chinese startup NIO has launched a seven-seater high-performance SUV, called the ES8, a competitor to Tesla X SUV, but at about half the price. It goes from 0-60 mph is 4.4 seconds.
The car has a base price of 448,000 yuan (US$67,788) before subsidies, compared to the Tesla X with a price of 836,000 yuan ($126,470) after import duties. The car company is only about three years old and it’s their first offering. The ES8 is just the first of what is expected to be a large number of electric car offerings from other companies such as BYD, Byton, and Xpeng, spurred on by the strong support of the government.
Most of these cars include driver assistance features such as adaptive cruise control, automatic braking and in-car artificial intelligence to respond to voice requests.
Tesla also plans to build a factory in Shanghai within two years and expects to build a couple of hundred thousand cars per year there.
Rather than relying on electric charging stations that can take close to an hour to recharge the battery, NIO, in cooperation with the government, is designing their cars to easily swap batteries in less than three minutes at any of the 1100 battery swap locations now under construction.
The company claims that it’s already profitable, and may go public in the U.S. next year. While their focus is on the China market, for now, they have employees in 40 countries. It’s expected they will produce 50,000 to 100,000 cars a year, with delivery beginning early next year.