TIANJIN – NIO plans to launch its first series production model – the ES8 electric SUV – in mid-December and smart electric vehicles is clearly a development direction for future automobiles and must be software-driven and offer an integrated service experience, according to company founder and chairman William Li.
Li made the comments while discussing the future development of smart EVs at the 2017 International Forum (TEDA) on Chinese Automotive Industry Development (IFCAID) in Tianjin on September 9.
“Smart EVs provide an opportunity to overtake competitors on a different path, not passing them on a curve as the industry normally describes,” said Li, “In addition to discussing the performance of the vehicle itself, the vehicle is a ‘service provider’ jointly supported by software and hardware.”
Li believes smart EV development must consider three factors. First, if the hardware technology can be shared, the cost can be reduced. Second, the fusion of software and data ensures that the industry continues to lead. Third, smart EVs rely more on localized infrastructure, therefore charging networks must also be integrated.
Li revealed that NIO now has a global R&D footprint and there are more than 2,900 employees in 13 cities around the world, 70 percent of whom are R&D professionals: half of them work on vehicles and the other half work on software. It currently has 100 vehicles testing around the world and four vehicles are testing autonomous driving features in Silicon Valley.
As a company that is less than three years old, NIO already produced its first ES8, China’s first independent all-aluminum vehicle, in May.
“We have set up a NIO New Energy Industry Development Fund to invest more than ¥3 billion in several industries including electric drive system, IOV autonomous driving, energy storage and new materials,” said Li.
He described NIO’s relationship with JAC as a much deeper cooperation rather than just contract manufacturing. NIO is also working with Chang’an to create a new form of cooperation with a new innovative business model.