On Wednesday, Nio announced a new electric sport utility vehicle, the ES7, which the Chinese EV maker says boasts top-notch self-driving technology at a competitive price tag. The newly-launched model is expected to compete with similar vehicles from the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Why it matters: Nio chief executive William Li hopes the latest model in a growing family of premium electric vehicles will grab a significant share of the Chinese luxury car segment and help the company challenge BMW as a market leader.

Details: Nio said that the ES7 will feature the necessary hardware for automated driving in all traffic scenarios, including 11 cameras, one lidar sensor, and an array of nearly 20 radar and ultrasonic sensors. The car will also offer customers three different battery options, with the smallest, at 75 kilowatt-hours (kWh), expected to be able to manage around 485 kilometers (301 miles) on one full charge.

  • Some of the car’s autonomous features will work on city roads and can be unlocked via over-the-air updates. Nio is planning to launch an enhanced Navigate on Pilot (NOP) software package in the third quarter of this year. The company’s vehicles will use high-definition maps created in collaboration with Chinese internet giant Tencent, Li told analysts on a conference call last Thursday.
  • Pricing for the ES7 will start at RMB 468,000 ($69,825), though that number can be lowered to RMB 398,000 if customers lease battery packs with a monthly subscription starting from RMB 980. The EV maker promised that deliveries will begin on August 28, after taking more than one year and nine months to deliver its sedans ET7 and ET5, respectively.
  • The first five-seater Nio will be able to accelerate to 100 km in less than four seconds. These numbers suggest that it will pose a direct challenge to BMW’s iX M60 electric SUV and Tesla Model Y high-performance model, which cost RMB 996,900 and RMB 417,900 in China, respectively.
  • The electric crossover also boasts class-leading headroom and legroom and will be one of the first passenger car models in China that can tow a caravan or a trailer. Owners will also be able to use the car’s energy for other means via bidirectional charging devices, allowing vehicles to serve as energy-storage units while camping.

Context: Nio’s growth has slowed considerably over the past year in comparison to competitors, and the challenges the Shanghai-headquartered EV maker faces are growing as its two major rivals Xpeng Motors and Li Auto are set to launch similar offerings to the ES7.

  • Xpeng plans to launch its first flagship five-seater SUV the G9 later this month, which the automaker claims will be the first Chinese car model using an 800-volt electrical system for fast charging. The G9 is scheduled for delivery in the third quarter of this year.
  • Li Auto will release its second model the L9 on June 21, with the large-sized SUV priced between RMB 450,000 ($67,635) and RMB 500,000. The company’s chief executive Li Xiang expects monthly deliveries to surpass 10,000 units from September.  

READ MORE: Drive I/O | Nio, Xpeng, and Li Auto face more challenges after a mixed 2021

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @jill_shen_sh