Nio starts production of updated 2020 ES8 electric SUV

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China-based Nio was nearly inducted into the pantheon of automotive history when it found itself trapped in a perfect storm of problems in March 2020 that threatened its future, not the least of which was the coronavirus pandemic. The company appears to be getting itself back on track now, and it has managed to launch an updated version of the ES8, its range-topping SUV, on the Chinese market.

Offered with six or seven seats, the ES8 can now ride on a massive, 100-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that feeds a pair of electric motors (one per axle). Their total output checks in at 534 pound-feet of torque, which is enough for a 4.9-second sprint from zero to 62 mph. Nio quotes its total driving range at 360 miles, and it pointed out the Brembo-developed brakes visible behind 21-inch alloys slow it down from 62 mph to a stop in 111 feet. The battery is a recent addition to the list of options; 70- and 84-kilowatt-hour units remain available.

Other changes include a bigger screen for the infotainment system, minor design tweaks, and improved driver-assistance technology. All told, the company made 180 improvements to the ES8. It managed to start production on time in spite of the coronavirus-related shutdowns that paralyzed most of China in early 2020. Volvo-owned Polestar, another electric car hopeful with strong ties to China, also reached a production milestone in this challenging environment, a sign the country’s industrial sector is on its way to recovery.

2019 was a tumultuous year for Nio. It voluntarily recalled 5,000 examples of the ES8 over fire concerns, it teamed up with Intel’s Mobileye to develop autonomous technology, it laid off 141 employees at its North American headquarters, yet it ended the year by beating quarterly revenue estimates. Time will tell if it has steered itself out of trouble for good, or if the roller coaster ride will continue in the coming months.

Its plans for the American market remain murky. Nio told Autoblog it still hopes to become a truly global brand with a presence in key markets like the United States and Europe, but there’s no fixed date for its entry into either market. As of writing, the ES8 (and smaller models like the ES6) are only sold in their home country of China.

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Saurabh Shukla

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