Second Nio sedan could challenge Tesla Model 3 & A4 e-tron [Update]

Nio plans to launch another sedan after the ET7, a lower-priced smaller car that can fetch higher volumes. The Nio sedan will likely compete with global midsize electric cars like the Tesla Model 3 and the rumored Audi A4 e-tron that is said to arrive in 2024. The BMW 3 Series electric is another challenger set to come out in 2022 as a conversion EV.

William Bin Li, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Nio, confirmed during the Q3 earnings call in November 2020 that the company would introduce two sedans back to back and that it was generating these cars on the NP 2.0 platform. Li said that the two sedans (the first was subsequently unveiled as the ET7) would complete Nio’s portfolio and there wouldn’t be models bigger than the ES8. He also stated that while electing segments, the company does not want to serve the “rich market” hinting that both launches would be less expensive than the ES8.

In August, Bin Li confirmed during the company’s Q2 2021 earnings conference call that the company plans to introduce three new models next year. The new Nio sedan should be one of them.

In 2022, we plan to deliver three new products based on NIO Technology Platform 2.0, including ET7. 

William Bin Li, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Nio (Nio Q2 2021 earnings conference call)

Expected specifications & price

The midsize sedan would be a luxury model priced at a premium over comparable offerings from mainstream brands. However, the price would be much lower than that of the Nio ET7, which costs CNY 448,000/EUR 57,533 onwards pre-subsidy. German luxury brands are also developing electric sedans in the executive class such as the Audi A6 e-tron, the BMW 5 Series Electric (BMW i5) and the Mercedes EQE which Nio would be following closely.

Nio ET7 side profile
The ET7 can travel over 500 km with a 70 kWh battery or over 700 km with a 100 kWh battery. It will receive sold state battery option next year. Image: Nio

Nio is working on an LFP battery, and for the benefits like lower cost and longer life it provides over an NMC battery, it is likely to strap it to the smaller incoming models. According to a report from Yuguancheshi, Nio has made a deal for an LFP battery production line with CATL. Tesla already offers this chemistry in the Model 3 in China, and below is what Bin Li thinks of it:

Of course, there are some inherent advantages of the LFP battery pack. A very important one is the cost. But there are also some weaknesses and shortcomings with this technology or form factor. For example, the performance of the battery pack in low temperature. This is going to significantly affect the user experience, especially during the winter. If we can solve the performance bottleneck under low temperature, I believe it should be the right timing and the right choice for us to use LFP battery pack and form factor.

William Bin Li, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Nio (Nio Q1 2021 Earnings Conference Call)

On the Nio Gemini

In May 2021, it emerged that Nio is developing a new model codenamed ‘Nio Gemini’ with an annual production target of 60,000 units. When the codename and the annual production target came into the public domain via reports, the Chinese media speculated that Gemini would be a mass-market model. Ma Lin, Senior Director of Corporate Communications, Nio, has confirmed that the Nio Gemini isn’t a low-end product, as per a CnEVPost report.

According to a report from Yiche, Gemini (Chinese: 双子星) is the name of a new sub-brand of Nio. The company could use this sub-brand for relatively cheaper models like the rumoured Tesla Model 3 rival. Qin Lihong, co-founder, Director, and President, Nio, said on 30 June 2021 that there’s no plan to launch a model costing under CNY 300,000 (approx. EUR 39,000) anytime soon. He also said that if the company launches such a low-price model in the future, it will sell it under a sub-brand.

During Nio’s Q2 2021 earnings conference call on 11 August 2021, Bin Li revealed for the first time that the company plans to launch high-volume models under a new brand. Without revealing the name, he said:

We have also stepped up our mass market entry preparation. We will enter the mass markets with a new brand. The core team of the new brand has been assembled, marking the first step of the strategic initiative of NIO.

William Bin Li, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Nio (Q2 2021 earnings conference call)

Bin Li added that one of the two yet-to-be-announced models due in 2022 would be an entry-level car.

For the other two products (apart from the ET7), I believe probably it’s better for me to share more information at a more appropriate time. Regarding the pricing, of course everything here (indiscernible) the battery cost has declined a little bit, and as our volume goes up, our BOM cost will also have some opportunity to go down. So, for the next year’s products we probably will have one of the lowest pricing products under the Nio brand. But, as I explained before, we are going to have a new brand for the mass market, so under the Nio brand we’re not going to have many low-pricing products.

William Bin Li, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Nio (Q2 2021 earnings conference call)

5G-ready

Nio is preparing to revise current models to offer 5G connectivity (and an upgraded cockpit), as per a report from CnEVPost. Bin Li reportedly confirmed the development at the Nio Track Day 2021 event on 3 July 2021. The company may equip future models like the midsize electric sedan with 5G connectivity right from launch. 5G connectivity would make the car ready for future-forward technologies like Cellular V2X protocol (C-V2X) for autonomous driving, and OTA updates on the go would be faster with 5G. Moreover, customers can stream 4K/8K/HDR video on multiple screens at gigabit speeds. Nio may use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Automotive 5G Platform for connectivity in its cars.

The post adds that the Nomi recognition rate and response speed would be perceivably enhanced in the future, and the automatic parking system’s performance will see a substantial upgrade.

Release Date

Bin Li indicated during the Q2 2021 earnings conference call that Nio plans to commence customer deliveries of the upcoming Nio sedan next year. Preparations for the launch of the three new Nio models in 2022 will begin this year.

Going forward into the second half of 2021, we will accelerate the pace of new products and full stack technology development, enhance our charging and swapping network as well as sales and the service network to be fully prepared for the delivery of the three new models in 2022.

William Bin Li, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Nio (Q2 2021 earnings conference call)

More updates awaited during Nio Day 2021

Nio has begun preparations for the Nio Day 2021 to be held in December of January. The next Nio Day event, where the company should announce details related to the battery and other aspects of its smaller offerings, could take place between 1 December 2021 and 15 January 2022

Nio is ambitious about making itself a global brand, as per yet another report from CnEVPost. At an event in Beijing in December 2020, Bin Li had said that in the next ten years, the company hopes to achieve not only market success in China, but also establish itself in the smart EV segment globally. The company is starting European operations in September 2021 with the ES8 SUV in Norway, to be followed by the ET7 in 2022.

Featured image: Patent of the ET7 via CNIPA