Electric car with Chinese comfort: Nio ES6 in the test

Long distances in the electric ES6 from Nio are a bit boring for the driver. The level 2 assistant keeps track, speed and distance. Finding the radio station you want is difficult because the menu is currently only available in Chinese. The digital assistant Nomi, who resides in a movable segment of a sphere on the dashboard, only understands Mandarin. The passenger sleeps on a seat with a footrest, similar to those in business class on a commercial aircraft.

I still have a view of the Bavarian mountains, the information in the head-up display and on the screen behind the steering wheel. Here the autopilot shows my lime green SUV as a small symbol. A blue circle swirls around my car, almost like a halo. It symbolizes the active autopilot. Next to and in front of the screen Nio, cars, trucks and motorcycles appear in gray on the display. The detection of other road users is extremely precise. Nevertheless, the driver assistant reminds you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at regular intervals. Its regular acoustic warning and the massage function in my seat keep me awake. Welcome to the Chinese upper class.

My first charging stop at the Walchensee hydropower plant does not go as expected. Wallbox and car only agree on 3.2 kW with the type 2 cable. 7 kW are possible. With single-phase power, a full charge of the 70 kWh battery would theoretically take ten hours. Too long to travel, there is a Chinese fast charging connection (GB / T) with up to 100 kW of power on the right side of the vehicle. The Nio engineers built a CCS adapter. With this I can later create charging capacities of up to 85 kW in the actively temperature-controlled battery on Ionity columns. The Nio should travel 430 km (NEDC) on one charge. In the test, 360 km with a consumption of 19.6 kWh per 100 km prove to be more realistic.

The Nio ES6 will not come to Europe next year or the year after as planned. It is not known whether it is really due to bad crash test results or perhaps due to financial difficulties.
(Photo: Dirk Kunde)

I use the time of the charging stop to see how solar energy is turned into electricity via the detour “water” and a difference in altitude – guaranteed CO2-free. Later, with a clear conscience, I meander up the switchbacks to Walchensee in the SUV. The power plant has been fed from this lake, which is 200 meters higher, since 1924 and has been one of the largest hydropower plants in Germany with 124 MW for almost 100 years.

In the bends, the standard air suspension with this equipment, which with 265/45 R21 low-profile tires in connection with an accurate steering gives the feeling of sitting in a lighter car. The tall SUV weighs at least 2345 kg empty, but thanks to its tightly designed adaptive damping it sways barely noticeably in tight corners. The front (160 kW) and rear (240 kW) engines together deliver 725 Nm of torque. This makes the ascent fun – and it remains largely unaffected by drive influences, which would be unavoidable with such great forces and only one driven axle. On a straight line, the Nio ES 6 accelerates from zero to 100 km / h in 4.7 seconds. At 200 km / h it is over. For good reasons, a maximum of 60 km / h is allowed on the mountain route, which is popular with motorcyclists.

For fractions of a second, I keep looking through the panorama roof into the summery blue sky. The brand name Nio means “the blue sky is coming”, an allusion to the smog situation in Chinese metropolises. Electric cars could do something about that.

Entrepreneur William Li founded the brand in Shanghai in 2014. The ES8, a seven-seater SUV, will hit the market in summer 2018. The five-seat ES6 followed a year later and was 17 cm shorter (4.85 m). The two electric SUVs are almost identical in width (2.17 m) and height (1.73 m). In September 2020, the Nio EC6 will complete the SUV trio with an even more coupé-inspired roof line.

Around 50,000 vehicles have now rolled off the assembly line in Hefei in Anhui Province. Nio does not put the investor money in its own factory, but has it manufactured by the car brand JAC. Even in his latest coup, Li relies on partners. Together with battery manufacturer CATL and two other companies, he founded the Battery Asset Company (BAC). This separates the electric car and battery. Customers in China buy the electric car from Nio and rent the battery from BAC. This makes the car cheaper and easier to resell.

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