Performance Evaluation of NIO ES8: Smart EV Idea Too Idealistic For Now
COVID-19 and China
Evaluation of NIO ES8. PHOTO: Credit to NIO

Vehicle capability is evolving more and more as a key decisive factor for marketability and competitiveness of passenger cars.

Currently, car manufacturers evaluate vehicle capability with subjective assessments such as having their experienced test drivers fill out evaluation sheets, which are somehow not objective.

EO AUTO recently made a video about NIO ES8’s performance testing this month. However, we didn't get to test all of NIO ES8's features. On the upside, we discovered that the ES8 has respectable driving dynamics and blistering acceleration. But it is not perfect.

ES8 Impressive Just On Paper?

ES8 is NIO’s first mass-market vehicle. The host of the EO AUTO test video said that there were many minor problems in the car during the test drive. Obviously, the Drive Range is the first and most serious problem to be discovered.

EV batteries are significant in determining both EV prices and costs since electric vehicles have a significantly shorter range compared to conventional vehicles with the internal combustion engine.

NIO claims that the ES8 can be charged at a maximum of 90 kW and that a full charge takes one hour on a DC fast charger. For those who can charge at home, NIO will install an AC charging station for free. Using this charger, the ES8 takes 10 hours for a full charge (at 7 kW). After EO AUTO testing, the fully charged ES8 had only 300km range instead of the 355km claimed by the company. In this respect, it leaves something to be desired.

Even though NIO offers a concierge service through their app for 10,800 RMB ($1,690 US) per year or 980 RMB ($150 US) per month. Someone will pick up and charge your vehicle, or swap the batteries. NIO says they will also deploy a fleet of 1,200 "mobile battery" charging vans by 2020, for vehicles that need a quick charge.

However, it is still important to inform the driver of an electric vehicle as accurately as possible about the actual range (300km) and how to reduce energy consumption and thus improve range. 

Similar to Tesla, every standard ES8 comes with an NIO Pilot hardware (eight cameras, five radars, and 12 ultrasonic sensors) and active safety features such as an automatic emergency brake and blind spot warning. As NIO's CEO LI Bin (李斌) introduced on a press, NIO Pilot has additional features including the Traffic Jam Pilot, Highway Pilot, auto lane change, summoning, and automatic parking. However, EO AUTO found that most featured functions of NIO Pilot that had not been on during the filming.

NOMI Mate is an AI companion equipped with speech recognition systems on top of the dash. The system links to the cloud and functions similar to Siri. However, speech recognition is still lacking. For example, when one person said "Hey NOMI, 我要回家! (I want to go home)" NOMI processed it as "我要吃瓜! (I want to eat a melon)"

The staff involved in this testing had an embarrassing situation that the car can’t connect to the 4G network, thus limiting the “maps” function which is inconvenient as it helps you get around in your daily life. Additionally, the door handle didn’t work once.

5G is the next evolution of mobile network technology. The automotive adoption of 5G may not arrive immediately, but it will surely make a huge difference in the way people drive and how autonomous vehicles operate when it’s released.

The ES8 is also capable of battery swapping, which takes three minutes to complete. NIO says they will operate 1,100 battery swapping stations in China by 2020, with a minimum density of one station per 3-kilometer (1.9-mile) radius in major cities. The stations are the same, take up three parking spaces, and can be installed outdoors or within a parking structure. But if the car can’t connect to a network, battery swapping will be finished by manual operation, not automation at all.

About NIO And Its ES8

NIO is a Chinese electric-carmaker. It is a well-funded EV startup based in China with expertise from all over the world, including Europe and California. It filed an IPO to list its American depositary shares on the New York Stock Exchange. Backed by Tencent, the technology giant, NIO is one of the several startups in China with ambitions to compete with Tesla.

The ES8 is NIO's first mass-market vehicle, and it certainly looks impressive on paper. It seats seven adults. Powered by dual 240 kW (322 HP) motors, it goes from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.4 seconds. Mobileye's EyeQ4 chip powers a suite of NIO Pilot's autonomous features.

It seems NIO is making a serious effort to build consumer confidence in the brand. But auto inventory hits a new high amid sluggish demand. China's automotive market had seen eight months of continuous decline in a row by February. Over the past year, it saw the first annual fall in sales since 1990, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

The vehicle itself is just one part of the consumers' experiences, and that the charging infrastructure, the array of services offered, the customer experience, and the provision of well-maintained facilities are equally important to maintain sales.

EqualOcean will be following the ES8 closely and will provide updates on the long-term ownership experience of arguably the most important new EV in China. We look forward to seeing how NIO Pilot handles China’s busy roads and whether charging infrastructure and battery swapping work in practice.

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