China enters electric vehicle battle with cut-price first launch

ES8 4x4 cheaper than a Tesla Model X and other rivals, which means manufacturer NIO can take on all-comers

William Li, Founder and Chairman of Chinese automaker NIO launches the NIO ES8 electric SUV during an event held in Beijing, China, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017.  (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
William Li, Founder and Chairman of Chinese automaker NIO launches the NIO ES8 electric SUV during an event held in Beijing, China, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

The Chinese electric-car maker NIO has launched sales of its first vehicle three years after the company was founded, undercutting the price of a rival model from Tesla.

Chinese customers can buy the ES8 4x4, with a range of 500 kilometres on a single charge, for 448,000 yuan (Dh248,883), the company said late Saturday in Beijing. That compares with 836,000 yuan for Tesla’s Model X, and 596,300 yuan for BMW’s petrol-powered X5.

“Electrification of automobiles provides us an opportunity to change lanes to lead,” said William Li, a founder of NIO. “Our goal is to make charging more handy than refuelling."

The full-size, all-wheel-drive ES8 has electric motors at the front and and the rear. To offset the weight of the batteries and motors, NIO opted for a lightweight aluminium body and chassis. The company also says that the ES8 has their new corporate design language that will appear on later models

The company is perhaps best known for its crazy quest to break track records with its 1,341bhp electric EP9 supercar. Last year the NIO claimed the beast had rocketed around Germany's famous Nurburgring track in a new electric car lap record of 7:05:120, blitzing the previous record of 7:22.329.

But regarding less hair-raisng electric cars, what can consumers expect to pay for other, non-Chinese vehicles that fall into a similar class as the ES8 4x4, either through the powerplant, or as regards capabilites?

Here are some alternatives:

Audi Q7 4x4

Model type: four-wheel drive

Power: Combustion engine

Starting price: Dh275,000

0-100kph: 6.3 seconds

Hostesses unveil a model of Audi's new Q7 SUV car during a presentation at the company's annual press conference in Ingolstadt, southern Germany, on March 3, 2016.  / AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOF STACHE
Audi's Q7 4x4. Christophe Stache / AFP

The second-generation Q7 is the biggest member of Audi's crossover lineup. It offers seating for seven passengers, a high-tech cabin, and Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system.

BMW i3 hybrid

Model type: large smart car

Power: all electric or hybrid electric plug-in

Starting price: Dh158,000

Range: 114 miles without ranger extension; around 200 miles with

0-100kph: 7 seconds

The BMW i3 plug-in hybrid vehicle is seen during the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, January 10, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB
The BMW i3 plug-in hybrid. Saul Loeb / AFP

Perhaps BMW's most important car in recent history, the i3 is a compact city car powered by an all-electric drivetrain. It is the product of several decades of research in the field of electric mobility and the first member of BMW's new i sub-brand.

Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

Model type: four-door saloon

Power: hybrid electric plug-in

Starting price: Dh176,000

Range: Electric only - 30 miles (claimed)

0-100kph: 6.5 seconds

The new Audi A3 Sportback e-tron is presented during a preview show by Volkswagen Group on March 3, 2014 on the eve of the press day of the Geneva Motor Show in Geneva. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI
Audi A3 Sportback e-tron. Fabrice Cofferimni / AFP

Audi revised its A3 Sportback e-tron for the 2017 model year, introducing new options and raising its base price. Buyers can now opt for Audi's virtual cockpit technology. It still carries a 1.4-litre petrol engine and electric motor in the front, driving through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, while under the rear seats lives an 8.8kWh lithium ion battery.

Kia Soul EV

Model type: four-door saloon

Power: electric

Starting price: Dh125,000

Range: 100 miles

0-100kph: 11.2 seconds

Kia plans to roll out 16 new electric and hybrid model by 2025. It is the latest manufacturer eyeing expansion of its lineup beyond gasoline. Frederic J. Brown / AFP
The Kia Soul EV. Frederic J Brown / AFP

As an electric vehicle, the Kia Soul EV could use some love since the EV market has moved on since it was introduced to the market. The Soul EV likely needs a range increase and price cut to remain competitive in today’s EV market.

Hyundai Tucson FCEV

Model type: four-door saloon

Power: hydrogen fuel cell

Starting price: Dh282,000

Range: 365 miles

0-100kph: 12 seconds

A Hyundai Tucson hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) is driven during a photo op in Newport Beach, California June 9, 2014. The Tucson FCEV will be released this week and represents the next generation of electric vehicles that creates its own electricity, on-board, from hydrogen with zero greenhouse-gas emissions, emitting only water vapor. The car will offer a driving range over 250 miles and is capable of refueling in less than 10 minutes with a hose and nozzle similar to gasoline fueling.  REUTERS/Alex Gallardo  (UNITED STATES - Tags: TRANSPORT ENERGY BUSINESS) - GM1EA6A0GKA01
The Hyundai Tucson hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle. Alex Gallardo/Reuters

With water vapour being the only exhaust, these vehicles are quite environmentally friendly. The Hyunai FCEV has a range and comparable power to a petrol engine. It only takes a few minutes to fill it with hydrogen. Sales, however, have been dismal.

Land Rover Discovery

Model type: four-wheel drive

Power: diesel/petrol combustion engine

Starting price: Dh225,000

Range: 475 miles

0-100kph: 7.1 seconds

The 2017 Land Rover Discovery is pictured at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California, U.S November 16, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Blake - HT1ECBG1LDM70
The 2017 Land Rover Discovery. Mike Blake/Reuteres

The Discovery has a starting price that undercuts its key rivals, so it makes sense if you’re looking for a big, seriously capable off-roader without much luxury kit. The trouble is, the vast majority of big 4x4 buyers do want lots of creature comforts, and even stepping up one trim level (to SE) pushes up the price considerably, making the Discovery more expensive to buy than an equivalent Q7 or XC90.

Volvo XC90

Model type: four-wheel drive

Power: diesel/petrol combustion engine/hybrid

Starting price: Dh245,000

Range: 340 miles (diesel)

0-100kph: 6.4 seconds

The Volvo XC90 SUV is seen during the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, January 9, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB
The Volvo XC90. Saul Loeb / AFP

The 2017 model of Volvo’s legendarily safe, spacious and useful seven-seat 4x4, was given a nut-and-bolt re-boot. One major principle remains: the engine is transversely mounted, and so a huge proportion of its length can be given over to the interior. There is a hybrid version, the T8, but that only provides around 20 miles of range. The all-new platform, engines and dash interface are Volvo’s own work, so if you like them don’t go thinking you can find them cheaper on another brand – this company acts independently these days, albeit under hands-off ownership of the large Chinese conglomerate, Geely.

Updated: December 17, 2017 07:00 PM


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