Chinese battery-car company Nio is making waves through the automotive world with the debut of a new flagship model dubbed the ET7, not only because of the record range it is claiming but because the most powerful of three optional battery packs could make the sedan the world’s first to use breakthrough solid-state batteries.
The automaker claims that the 150 kilowatt-hour pack will be able to deliver around 1,000 kilometers per charge, or about 621 miles. That’s nearly 50% more than what the longest-range Tesla Model S can deliver, and around 100 miles more than what Lucid expects to deliver with the longest-range version of the Air sedan it is getting ready to roll out.
Nio also promises significant performance from the ET7, as well as an advanced self-driving system based on 33 different sensing systems, including LIDAR, the 3D laser technology that many experts believe will be essential in order to have complete hands-free and even driverless operation.
Nio is one of the dozens of Chinese companies hoping to dominate that market’s emerging market for battery-electric vehicles – the Beijing government recently announcing a target of having plug-in hybrids and BEVs account for 20% of new vehicle sales by 2025. It has faced a series of financial challenges over the last couple years but expects to start gaining traction with the launch of new products like the ET7. It has also expressed interest in expanding beyond Chinese borders as BEV sales increase worldwide.
Based on preliminary specifications, the Nio ET7 could pose a serious challenge to Tesla, currently the EV leader in China. The new sedan measures 200.7 inches, nose-to-tail, or five inches longer than a Model S. While it won’t be as fast as the highest performance version of the Tesla, the Nio still will make 644 horsepower out of its dual motors – one driving each axle. It will launch from 0 to 100 kmh, or 62 mph, in 3.9 seconds.
As with Tesla, Nio plans to offer three different battery pack options, with capacities of 70, 100 and 150 kWh. The last is nearly 50% bigger than the maximum offered by the U.S. automaker. But what is the real breakthrough is that Nio claims the 150 kWh pack uses new solid-state batteries.
At their basic, this technology is similar to today’s lithium-ion cells but eliminates the liquid slurry and replaces it with a solid substrate. Nio has not revealed specific details but proponents contend solid-state batteries are smaller, lighter, more energy-dense and capable of quicker charging. They’re also much more resistant to catching fire.
The solid-state pack, Nio claims, will manage about 1,000 kilometers on a full charge, though that was measured using the more lenient Chinese NEDC test cycle. It is not clear how that would come in running the U.S. EPA test. While it might be an apples-to-oranges comparison, the longest-range version of the Model S gets 402 miles, according to the EPA, while Lucid expects 517 miles for the top version of the Air sedan.
The ET7, which will start at 378,000 yuan, or around $58,000, is a high-tech showpiece. To support its autonomous driving system, it will feature 11 high-resolution cameras, notes a Nio release, along with one “ultralong-range high-resolution LiDAR, 5 millimeter wave radars, 12 ultrasonic sensors, 2 high-precision positioning units” and more. It claims its NVIDIA-based computing system is seven times more powerful than the FSD computers onboard the Model S.
The Nio sedan doesn’t feature the massive touchscreen found on current Tesla products, but does have a 12.8-inch central display, as well as a 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster. And it appears to be one of the first cars to opt for 5G connectivity, rather than 4G LTE, along with Bluetooth and WiFi. Add to that a 23-speaker sound system.
The 70- and 100-kWh versions of the Nio ET7 will debut first, by early in 2022. The solid-state package isn’t expected to reach Chinese showrooms until late that year.