Chinese Startup Launches Electric SUV That’s Half the Price of a Tesla

Tesla wants to single-handedly shake up the automobile industry. But in China, the world’s largest market for electric vehicles, Tesla may soon face some stiff competition.

Over the weekend, Shanghai-based electric vehicle startup NIO just recently unveiled a 7-seater, dual-motor electric SUV at a launch event in Beijing: the ES8. In its home turf of China, the newly launched ES8 starts at 448,000 yuan — about $68,000 in U.S. dollars. That’s roughly 50 percent cheaper than Tesla’s similar Model X, which retails for 836,000 yuan ($127,000) in the country, The Verge reported.

The NIO SUV starts to look more like a Tesla competitor when you consider some of its features, which include built-in artificial intelligence, a 220-mile range, and a battery-swapping system the company said can get the ES8 back on the road in about three minutes. ES8 buyers can also opt for a battery subscription service, which includes nationwide quality assurance and roadside assistance, NIO said. The startup will also offer home as well as mobile concierge charging.

While the Chinese startup is only three years old, it employs about 4,000 people across China, Europe and the U.S. It already has offices in Munich and California — and, after China, it hopes to expand globally. And in mainland China, it plans to significantly expand its charging network and infrastructure within the next few years.

NIO’s President, Lihong Qin, told CNN told the company is planning on targeting China’s burgeoning middle class — a market that he predicts will basically double in size in the next four to six years.

“Of course, we can compete against Tesla, technologically and product-wise,” Qin said, but added that there is no “winner-take-all rule” in the electric car industry. “If we can be ourselves and we do what we think is right, we will have our market share. We don’t need to care about the competition too much.”

The launch of China’s first mass-produced electric SUV suggests that competition could heat up for Tesla. Notably, China is already a critical market for the Bay Area company, which reported revenues of about $1.5 billion in the country in the first nine months of 2017.

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