NIO, the Chinese startup formerly known as NextEV, came to SXSW to reveal to American market its autonomous electric supercar, the EP9 and as a surprise also revealed an autonomous luxury sedan called the Eve.
NextEV is well funded from Chinese and international investors and has partnered with MobilEye, NVidia and others to develop these two cars and bring them to the market in the near future.
The EP9 was revealed last fall after making headlines with a record-breaking lap time at the Nurburgring. The EP9 is pure performance – electrically powered 1000KW (1360bhp), four-wheel drive, with neck-snapping acceleration of 0-200kmh (124 mph) in 7.1 seconds and a top speed of 194mph.
The exterior is racing car styling based largely on aerodynamics and performance handling. The interior is spartan in the extreme, as it is built for racing – with or without a driver. It is a two-seater although its most impressive performance to date came with no one on board. At the Circuit of the Americas in Texas the car reached a record lap time and a speed of 160 mph, and 170 mph with a driver on board. Initial production is said to be six cars at a cost of some $1.2 million each.
A surprise reveal after the EP9 introduction was Eve, an autonomous electrically powered sedan concept, which NIO describes as “more a digitally connected companion than a vehicle”.
From the exterior, Eve looks much like other tech-luxury sedans we have seen of late; a long crossover/sedan form. Crisp styling with blade-like edges at the corners keep the form from looking either too boxy or too bulbous. The glasshouse features variable opacity side glass for privacy and a panoramic windscreen that arches over the front occupants, and then continues across the main lounge area behind.
Open the large, forward-sliding side doors and the Eve reveals an innovative lounge type interior with five seats – two rear, two up front and two amidships facing the rear passengers. One seat reclines to form a lounger much like a business class seat on a modern jetliner.
Five can sit on board in comfort (the sixth is a foldable jump seat) with minimal intrusion into each other personal space, unlike some lounge concepts we have seen. The front passengers – it is assumed that most of the trips in the car will employ autonomous driving – will enjoy a panoramic space, almost as if gliding over the road in a glass canopy, with no real instrument panel, just a broad screen. The steering wheel, too, is very minimal to de-emphasize driving and encourage automated motoring.
At the heart of the technology informing the design of Eve is Nomi, an AI system that controls the car and interacts with the occupants. Nomi can receive both physical and verbal commands and connect both within the car and to the outside world. Active glass enables NOMI to provide an augmented vision that enhances occupants’ ride and communications.
NIO is projecting a production date of 2020 with a first introduction in China followed by arrival in other markets shortly thereafter
We got a chance to speak with the design team here at SXSW, so we’ll feature an in-depth report on the car’s design in the near future, and no doubt have another look at Eve in our report from the Shanghai Motor Show.
More? The official NIO Eve video is here and the NIO SXSW highlights video is here