Author(s): Raghu Gopal
NextEV is a Chinese start-up that designs and develops high-performance, premium electric vehicles. The company has offices in Shanghai, San Jose, Munich, London and eight other locations.
On Monday, at the Saatchi Gallery in London, NextEV unveiled a car brand called Nio and a top-notch electric vehicle called EP9. The company's CEO, William Li, said the car is designed to "push limits", referring to the car's speed and features.
The EP9 is an eye-catching car designed to build hype for the Nio brand, which is expected to launch the first mass-market electric car in China in 2017. The car achieved a new lap record at the Nürburgring Nordschleife in October 2016, racing the 20.8 km "Green Hell" track in 7 minutes and 05.12 seconds, beating the previous lap record set by an electric vehicle. On 4 November, it smashed the record at Circuit Paul Ricard in France, recording a time of 1 minute and 52.78 seconds, eclipsing the previous record of 2 minutes and 40 seconds. For now at least, it appears that the EP9 is the fastest electric car in the world, but it will also be one of the scarcest. The supercar will have a limited production run — just six, according to NextEV — and at a steep price: the cost of production of each car is expected at about $1.2 million.
The EP9 features an integrated e-control structure and sensor system layout, which could fit the latest autonomous driving technology. NextEV claims to have recruited thousands of world-class research and development and design experts with significant technology and management background to develop the car. In October 2016, NextEV USA announced that it was issued a permit for autonomous vehicle testing by the California Department of Motor Vehicles and that it would begin testing on public roads in the US under the Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program guidelines.
Investors in NextEV include Lenovo, Sequoia Capital, Temasek, Tencent and TPG. The company is also involved in the FIA Formula E Championship, the single-seat all-electric racing series. The NextEV Nio Formula E team won the inaugural drivers' championship title in 2015.
The company plans to first sell its series of electric and autonomous cars in China and then move on to other markets. China has identified new-energy vehicles, which it defines as plug-in hybrids, all-electric and fuel-cell vehicles, as a strategic industry to promote its goal of energy security and pollution control. The Chinese government has a goal of getting 5 million electric vehicles on its roads by 2020, and has poured billions of dollars in consumer subsidies, research and development grants and construction of a charging infrastructure.
China clearly sees a long-term future in electric vehicles, and both public and private funds are backing companies looking to participate in establishing a new industry.