NIO’s ‘family EV’ sub-brand coming to Europe as ‘Onvo’

Chinese premium EV maker NIO has chosen ‘Onvo’ as the English name for the line of affordable ‘family electric cars’ it will sell in Europe. In China, it’s called Ledao (乐道), which means as much as ‘happy road’, according to founder and CEO William Li.

Under the ‘Alps’ codename, it has been developing a mass-market car to compete directly with the Tesla Y at 200,000 yuan (€25,530). Like all NIOs, it will have a swappable battery. The carmaker is partnering with CATL to develop swappable battery packs that will retain 85% of their capacity after 15 years.

Due for Q2 2024

Chairman and CEO Li stated earlier that the new family car is due for launch in China in Q2 of 2024, with the first crossover directly targeting the Tesla Y. That one retails in China in two versions at 258,900 and 299,900 yuan (€33,046 to €38,279). Simultaneously, NIO is working on another subbrand, ‘Firefly,’ codenamed to target even lower as a real budget car.

Onvo is built on NIO’s new NT3 EV platform with a BOM (bill of materials) that is about ten percent cheaper than Tesla’s, he said before. He said the Ledao or Onvo ‘happy-road’ name was carefully chosen with families in mind.

“What are the most important things for a family?” he asked. “The first is to be happy and joyful. The second is to care about the price and the cost of use. These two points add up to having a happy family and managing the family well. Every road a family takes together is a happy road, and that’s what its name means.”

William Li told the press that the spy shots circulating on Chinese social media of the first Onvo L60 model to be launched don’t live up to the car’s actual looks. “It is actually quite beautiful.”

Renting or buying the battery?

Like the NIO-branded cars positioned just above the Onvo, the latter will probably be offered with the option of renting or buying the battery. NIO recently lowered prices on its Battery-as-a-Service (BaaS) in China by 25%.

It now asks 728 yuan (€93) monthly to rent the 70/75-kWh standard battery. Renting the battery initially makes the NIO 70,000 yuan (€8,933) cheaper. When opting for the long-range 100 kWh battery, the initial savings are 128,000 yuan (€16,337), and the monthly rent is 1,128 yuan (€144), or 32% cheaper.

Renting the battery means being able to swap it at any time in one of the 2,300 ‘Power Stations’ NIO has operational today in China and Europe. It takes away the customer’s ‘anxiety’ of getting a depreciated car after eight years when the standard warranty most EV makers give today ends. In China alone, from 2025 to 2032, nearly 20 million (N)EVs will run out of battery warranties.

Offering 85% after 15 years

NIO has just inked a new collaboration agreement with its power battery supplier CATL, China’s biggest battery maker. CATL offers swappable ‘rental’ batteries in China itself, along with ride-hailing giant Didi and China’s FAW Motor. NIO and CATL will jointly develop the next generation of swappable batteries that should retain 85% of their capacity even after 15 years.

In China, battery swapping is quite popular as an alternative to fast charging compared to the rest of the world. It only takes three minutes for an NIO to swap an empty battery for a 100% charged one.

China predicts sales of electric vehicles, so-called NEVs, will reach 7.8 million units in 2025, of which battery-swap models are expected to account for 30%. That might trigger a global movement in the future. Meanwhile, NIO is moving heaven and earth to convince other EV makers to jointly develop a battery-swapping standard, which allows swapping among brands.

It has already signed up Changan Automobile and Geely, the parent company of Volvo, Polestar, Zeekr, Lynk & Co, and Smart, among others. It is talking to at least five other parties, as stated earlier. William Li’s idea to open up its battery swap system to other car companies is one of Nio’s key strategies, comparing the service to a cloud service.


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