While premium carmakers love to tell us about their plans for an electron-fuelled future, none of them have got close to challenging Tesla's global lock on the pricier end of the EV market.
So far, the only luxury leccy to have moved in any kind of volume is the Jaguar iPace, but it has still managed only 13,000 globally after nearly a year of sales.
Things are different in China, where Nio is well on the way to establishing itself as the People's Republic's answer to Tesla.
After a fair amount of pre-launch hype, including setting a Nürburgring record in the ultra-limited EP9, the brand started selling the ES8 SUV last year, and has already delivered 15,000 of them.
Deliveries of the cheaper and more agile ES6 will begin in June, with the ambition being to rapidly move annual sales towards six figures.
There are no plans to sell outside China in the short term – despite the fact Nio is listed on the New York Stock Exchange – but the company's long-term ambition is to become a major player within the high-end EV market globally.
CarAdvice has already tested the ES6 in the PRC. As tends to be the case with Chinese launches, my drive took place exclusively on-track – in this case the newly opened V1 Auto World course near Tianjin.
But I was pretty much given free rein of the place for half an hour, and can report the ES6 delivers seriously impressive performance. Indeed, apart from the iPace, it is the first EV I've driven to deliver acceleration that can raise a similarly sized smile to that of a powerful Tesla.
The ES6 will be offered with two different powertrains. The standard version will use a pair of 160kW permanent magnet motors, one turning each axle.
The beefier Premier Edition (along with the less-well-equipped Performance that will follow it) swap out the rear unit for a beefier 240kW induction motor shared with the ES8.
Two battery packs will be offered, a regular 70kWh unit and a long-range 84kWh unit. But as well as fast charging, Nio also offers owners use of an innovative battery swap system, which allows empty packs to be changed for fully charged ones in less than five minutes.
China uses the generally optimistic EUDC calculation for EV range, and on that the Premier and Performance versions of the ES8 can go 430km on the 70kWh battery and 510km on the 84kWh.
The equivalent numbers for the Chinese market Tesla Model X and Jaguar iPace are 552km and 456km respectively.
Performance impresses. V1 Auto World is a mostly tight 2.5km circuit designed to meet China's growing appetite for track days, but even its generally short straights gave the ES6 a chance to stretch its legs.
Acceleration felt strong, the Nio delivering organ-sloshing longitudinal loadings well before the accelerator pedal reached the bulkhead. But the official 4.7-second 0–100km/h time underplays the any-speed urge of a car that doesn't need to change gears to start really pulling.
There wasn't enough room to confirm the 200km/h limited top speed, but at an indicated 130km/h the ES6 was still pulling strongly.
Cornering was more of a challenge. Nio claims the ES6 can lap V1 just four seconds slower than a BMW M4, but getting the most out of it meant entering corners slowly and staying disciplined with power.
Big understeer angles were embarrassingly easy to engender, with the stability control not allowing any element of rear-end slip.
But within those limitations, and those imposed by the low-feel steering, the ES6 can be hustled at an impressive pace. For a couple of laps, at least – after more than that, the massive thermal loads of pulling power from the battery and putting it back under regen’ caused the powertrain to de-rate, as Teslas tend to under harder use.
A sedate lap then cooled everything down enough for another faster stint.
Brakes struggled under track use. Not with fade – the sizeable Brembo discs coped well with the need for some big stops – rather with an over-aggressive 'boost' function, which lends assistance if it thinks an emergency stop is required by adding pressure to help.
This causes the pedal to lurch downwards, and makes it very hard to modulate retardation or stay smooth. Not something the ES6's more typical duty in China's crowded cities is likely to lead to very often.
Driving gently proved the Nio stayed smooth and refined under lower-intensity use, with sufficient regeneration to allow one-pedal operation. Lower-speed use, plus a passenger ride on Chinese streets, showed off what felt like a reasonably compliant ride on 20-inch wheels.
The ES6’s interior also felt well up to the standards of mainstream rivals, being spacious for both front and rear seat occupants, and impressively well finished.
The 11.3-inch central display screen is crisply rendered, and the test car was also fitted with Nio’s cutesy NOMI display – a circular screen on top of the dashboard with an animated face that serves as the main interface for the car’s voice-recognition system, and turns to face whoever is speaking to it.
Testing was limited by the fact it currently only supports Chinese language input. While what’s basically a live, animated emoji might grow old quickly, I suspect kids will love it.
Pricing is where it gets interesting. The ES6 is much more expensive than the cheaper models that are intended to get China’s private transport system electrified (Cars like the Geely Geometry A that we drove last month). But it is much cheaper in China than the western import brands it is intended to compete against.
The ES6 range starts at RMB 358,000 before subsidies – $75,000 at current exchange rates – rising to RMB 498,000 ($104,300) for the fully loaded Founder’s Edition that we tested.
For context, a Tesla Model X 100D is RMB 794,000 ($166,000) in the PRC, and a Jaguar i-Pace is RMB 630,800 ($132,000).
Nio says it is still several years from exports, but if it can keep its price advantage when it starts to sell outside China, it could become a serious threat to established carmakers.
Nuts & Bolts
On sale: June (China)
Engine: Electric motor, permanently magnet (front), electric motor, induction magnet (rear)
Power: 160kW (F), 240kW (R)
Gearbox: Single speed, independent both ends, all-wheel drive
Top speed: 200km/h