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Battle of battery cars: China NIO's SUV versus Tesla's Model X

[BEIJING] Chinese startup NIO marked its entry last week into the world's biggest market for electric cars with a sport utility vehicle priced cheaper than Tesla Inc's Model X.

Set up about three years ago, NIO is among the youngest companies to join the global EV (electric vehicle) melee as regulators worldwide crack down on emissions and countries, including China, consider phasing out cars powered by petrol and diesel. In China, NIO will also be competing against giants including Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co, besides local rivals such as BYD Co.

When it comes to taking on the the might of Elon Musk's Model X, the NIO's new ES8 is no shrinking violet, accelerating from zero to 100 Kmph in a sprightly 4.4 seconds, compared to the Tesla's more sedate 6.3 seconds.

It beats the Model X when it comes to charging speed too, filling the battery with juice in just 1.1 hours, compared to Tesla's 4.5 on a speed charge.

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So, here's how the seven-seater ES8 stacks up against the Model X: NIO is promising features and services to reassure buyers that they won't be left stranded in the middle of nowhere after running out of battery charge. Owners of the ES8 can charge their car by swapping batteries at power-swap stations in three minutes or recharge with the help of "Power Mobile" service vehicles that travel to motorists.

The startup plans to build more than 1,100 power-swap stations in China by 2020 and have more than 1,200 "Power Mobile" service vehicles. A battery-swap station can be assembled within a day, according to NIO founder William Li. The carmaker will also offer other free services including on-road assistance.

Founded by Mr Li and a group of Internet entrepreneurs in 2014, NIO has raised more than US$1 billion from investors led by Tencent Holdings Ltd and is also backed by investors including Baillie Gifford & Co, the second-biggest institutional investor in Tesla, Lone Pine Capital LLC, Citic Capital Holdings Ltd and China Asset Management Co.

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