Automotive

Nio EP7 promises 621-mile electric range and quick-swappable batteries

Nio EP7 promises 621-mile elec...
The ET7 is Nio's first sedan, and its first autonomous-capable vehicle, with a massive 150-kWh, 621-mile battery option to come in late 2022
The ET7 is Nio's first sedan, and its first autonomous-capable vehicle, with a massive 150-kWh, 621-mile battery option to come in late 2022
View 8 Images
The ET7 is Nio's first sedan, and its first autonomous-capable vehicle, with a massive 150-kWh, 621-mile battery option to come in late 2022
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The ET7 is Nio's first sedan, and its first autonomous-capable vehicle, with a massive 150-kWh, 621-mile battery option to come in late 2022
A 150-kW solid-sate battery pack coming in late 2022 will give the ET7 a 621-plus-mile range
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A 150-kW solid-sate battery pack coming in late 2022 will give the ET7 a 621-plus-mile range
The look is conservative but pretty decent
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The look is conservative but pretty decent
Yep, that's a little AI character in the dash
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Yep, that's a little AI character in the dash
Tidy rear seats and panoramic sunroof
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Tidy rear seats and panoramic sunroof
Spacious and clean-looking cockpit
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Spacious and clean-looking cockpit
The Power Swap 2.0 station can charge and swap as many as 312 battery packs a day, and Nio is planning to have 500 of them operational in China by the end of 2021
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The Power Swap 2.0 station can charge and swap as many as 312 battery packs a day, and Nio is planning to have 500 of them operational in China by the end of 2021
The battery swap mechanism under the floor removes the car's entire battery pack and replaces it with a charged one in minutes as you sit there
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The battery swap mechanism under the floor removes the car's entire battery pack and replaces it with a charged one in minutes as you sit there
View gallery - 8 images

Chinese Tesla rival Nio has unveiled its first electric sedan following several SUVs and the Nurburgring-torching EP9 supercar. At Nio Day in Chengdu, the company celebrated some 75,000 sales and launched its first autonomous-capable vehicle, the ET7 sedan, as well as a monstrous 150-kWh "production-ready" solid-state battery pack and the second version of its automated battery-swap station, which could effectively top you up in a matter of minutes instead of making you wait for a charge.

The ET7 is a reasonably tidy, if anonymous-looking four-door starting around the US$70,000 mark. Peak power is a meaty 480 kW (643 hp), split between a 180-kW (241-hp) motor driving the front wheels and a 300-kW (402-hp) unit at the rear. Peak torque is 850 Nm (627 lb-ft), and acceleration will be very quick if unspectacular at 3.9 seconds from 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph).

Awkward lumps over the windscreen and rear window are there to house some of the car's 33 environmental sensors, which include "11 8-megapixel high-resolution cameras, one ultralong-range high-resolution LiDAR, five millimeter-wave radars, 12 ultrasonic sensors, two high-precision positioning units, V2X and ADMS." These can combine to generate up to 8 GB of data every second, to be fed through four Nvidia Drive Orin processors to enable autonomous driving with data-crunching capabilities seven times greater than Tesla's current-gen in-house FSD computers.

A 150-kW solid-sate battery pack coming in late 2022 will give the ET7 a 621-plus-mile range
A 150-kW solid-sate battery pack coming in late 2022 will give the ET7 a 621-plus-mile range

Of course, you need a lot more than a ton of data to make a car drive itself, and Nio seems fairly early in its journey to autonomy. But it does have a terrific acronym for its Nio Autonomous Driving system, or NAD. Cars with NADs will gradually gain a sackful of abilities, from various safety systems, to hands-free highway driving, and eventually to urban autonomy and self-parking – but there's no mention of when these abilities will come online, and they're insanely difficult systems to develop, so who knows how long they'll take.

Either way, there's a monthly subscription fee for the NAD service (a line item I wouldn't want to explain to my wife on the bank statement), so if you aren't impressed by it you can flat out stop paying for it.

The ET7 will launch with 70- and 100-kWh battery pack options, and by the end of 2022, there'll also be a whopping-big 150-kWh pack using a high-density solid-state technology that Nio says is production-ready. With an impressive energy density of 360 Wh/kg (the current Tesla Model 3 battery offers around 260 Wh/kg), this beast of a thing will give the ET7 an outrageous range over 1,000 km (621 miles) on a charge, says the company.

Mind you, Nio doesn't appear to be making this battery itself, so that monster solid-state pack will likely be available to other manufacturers that work with the same supplier. And Elon Musk says Tesla is only a few years off its own high-density production battery, which is targeting a density over 400 Wh/kg to pack in even more energy.

The Power Swap 2.0 station can charge and swap as many as 312 battery packs a day, and Nio is planning to have 500 of them operational in China by the end of 2021
The Power Swap 2.0 station can charge and swap as many as 312 battery packs a day, and Nio is planning to have 500 of them operational in China by the end of 2021

Range per charge may be less of an issue for Nio drivers than others anyway; the company also launched the second version of its Power Swap Station. The cars will allegedly drive themselves into these small boxes, and as you sit there, the entire battery pack will be automatically dropped out from under the car and replaced with a fresh one. The Power Swap 2.0 box, says Nio, will charge and swap as many as 312 batteries a day, running a diagnostic on each vehicle to identify faults early.

As such, you can buy the ET7 with a battery you can call your own, or pay less up front and subscribe to a "Battery as a Service" (BaaS) model that lets you swap batteries out at any of 500 Power Swap stations slated to be built across China by the end of 2021. BaaS versions will start around US$58,000, and may prove attractive not just to long-haul travelers, but also to people that might live in apartments or other places with nowhere to charge.

Spacious and clean-looking cockpit
Spacious and clean-looking cockpit

The car's interior looks nice and luxurious, with heating, cooling and massaging seats, a 12.8-inch touch screen and a monster 1,000-watt, 23-speaker sound system standard. Every car has smart air suspension and active damping control. Nio says "the ET7 defines the new standard for premium electric vehicles."

Well, it does look like a pretty neat car, but an outsourced solid state battery pack, a LiDAR and a ton of computing power do not a Tesla-killer make – especially when Tesla's light years ahead of anyone else in the game with autonomy, and has nearly two years to make a bigger battery if Elon decides that'd be worthwhile.

The ET7 is available for pre-order now, with deliveries starting in early 2022. At this stage it's only available in China.

Source: Nio

View gallery - 8 images
14 comments
14 comments
Daishi
Anyone can make big claims but so far NIO seems like a competent manufacturer too. Their first production vehicle was only 2018 but they seem to be proving themselves as a competent manufacturer. One trend I don't really understand is why does an automobile need 28 speakers? And if you are going to put in 28 speakers why the hell isn't one of them a half decent subwoofer? They use a 20 channel amplifier which seems beyond silly.
paul314
The battery-swap gizmo sounds like something that will work well only when everything is clean. Good luck with that, unless it also include an undercarriage carwash.
DaveWesely
Rather surprised no other BEV manufacturer has developed a battery swap system. With it, the upfront purchase price could be far lower, recharge time on trips reduced, personal garage necessity for charging eliminated, and dealerships would be given profit motive to push BEVs for their battery swap stations.
Aross
Swap-able battery packs is the way to go. That reduces the time it takes to get a new full charge and to me eliminates the need to buy a replacement every few years. The cost could be covered by a small fee added to each refill.
As for dropping the battery, I don't think it is a great idea for places where ice, snow and the accompanying slush and dirt would be an issue. A better option would be a compartment under the car that can be opened from both sides and the new battery inserted as the old one is pushed out. In winter a deicing spray could be used to ensure it all works well.
nick101
The battery swap concept if the only thing that will make electric cars affordable and attractive for the average consumer to buy. They have been using swappable batteries in warehouses for forklifts and other equipment for years. BTW the only parts of the battery that needs to be squeaky clean are the terminals.
guzmanchinky
Sounds good, but I'm not convinced there is a huge market for a Chinese car in the US or Europe? Only time will tell...
paul314
The problem with the swapping is the additional capital investment. There are currently about 100K gas stations in the US. Let's be optimistic and say a swapping station costs $100K to install and supply with its initial set of battery packs. That would be $10 billion. Maybe scale down because initially fewer cars needing a swap (and of course we're assuming a standard so that you don't need 5 or 10 different swapping stations to cover all the different brands), and it's still a big honking pile of money that the manufacturer has to lay out in advance.
Hasler
Battery swapping is refuelling mechanically rather than electrically. But it would solve the problem of charging for all those without their own socket, or when every public charging point is occupied. It also avoids the future large one-off cost of a replacement permanent battery as the range decreases.
Chris__
"Cars with NADs will gradually gain a sackful of abilities" - haha, I love that you can always find a bit of humour in technology, it makes your posts so much more interesting to read, particularly when the car itself is just a bit 'meh, whatever'.
Rusty Harris
Just come up with the "Mr Fusion" reactor, and be done with it. LOL
The problem I have with EV's is the battery "range" and the fact that juice to power it
up has to come from somewhere. Currently (sorry, no pun intended) in the USA anyway,
the electrical grid cannot handle the MASSIVE jump in load on the system. Solar/wind cannot
"juice up" that much power when needed. Either you build more coal powered plants, or
you build more nuclear plants.
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