China is likely to become the next leader in new energy vehicles, said Ian Zhu, a partner at NIO Capital, founded by NextEV and VC firms. Zhu spoke at a panel called “The Car the Internet Made” during TechCrunch Shenzhen; he pinpointed some of the advantages of the Chinese electric vehicle market such as motor and battery technology, a large market, and advances in the field of AI.
He also introduced NIO’s plans for a unique concept in the autonomous vehicle market called Eve. According to the company, NIO Eve is not just a car, it is a companion.
“The company’s focus is designing the car that is more tailored to the users,” said Zhu in an interview with TechNode.
The NIO Eve is all about direct contact and getting to know its users. According to Zhu, the personalized car industry has just started and in the future it will offer great possibilities for sales, raising profit margins after the purchase of the car.
“Unlike traditional cars, once users enter the car they will track who and how is using the car,” said Zhu.
The concept car is planned to be launched in 2020. Many of the car’s features have been designed but the actual user experience will depend on the market, Zhu explained. NIO sees Eve not only as a mobility solution but also as a personal space. According to announcements, the car will be equipped with a table, a screen, and reclining seats where passengers can sleep. NIO’s main targets are commuters and families.
“You can spend a lot of time in a car if it is driven autonomously, you could do a lot of things, ” said Zhu.
NIO Capital was co-established by electric vehicle designer NIO, previously known as NextEV, Sequoia Capital, and Hillhouse Capital. NIO’s headquarters are in Shanghai, but it also has offices in Munich, Beijing, Hong Kong, London, and San Jose, California.
NIO’s most famous product so far is the electric supercar NIO EP9 which broke an electric vehicle lap record at Nürburgring Nordschleife and costs around USD$ 1.2 million to make. NIO is one of the competitors at the all-electric Formula E race series and is capable of accelerating from 0 to 124 miles (200 kilometers) per hour in 7.1 seconds.
Its second product, the all-electric SUV NIO ES8 was unveiled at the International Automobile Industry Exhibition in Shanghai in April this year. The 7-seater will be available on the Chinese market next year.
For production, NIO plans to rely on an innovative supply chain which means that the company will focus on the design and leave the manufacturing to partners such as JAC and Changan. The move will help the company mitigate some of the high costs associated with setting up automobile production. NIO’s main task will be to enhance user experience and sales, Zhu explained.