Nio is giving its electric vehicles a ‘European touch’ in Oxfordshire

By | April 4, 2024

Nio ET5 for three quarters

Each of Nio’s models has benefited from input from the Oxfordshire base

In a modest-looking workshop on an industrial estate in Oxfordshire, the foundation for Nio’s British market aspirations is being laid.

Here in ‘Motorsport Valley’, a small team of engineers is working to infuse the Chinese electric car maker’s future models with what its chief engineer, Danilo Teobaldi, describes as a “European flavour”.

Nio is already active in Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, but has yet to officially launch in the UK. The latest statement suggests that sales in the UK will begin sometime in 2025 as part of a further global expansion that will include right-hand drive markets for the first time.

Still, Teobaldi is confident that when they reach Britain, the Nio models sold here will reflect the kind of dynamic qualities expected and demanded by buyers in a segment traditionally dominated by Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz .

“We have very experienced and talented people working in Oxfordshire. It’s not routine engineering, but what we call attribute integration: the way a car behaves while driving. We participate in hardware decisions from the beginning, i.e. what type of suspension is chosen for a particular model, and refine that during the development cycle,” he says.

Teobaldi has a background in vehicle integration, a process he describes as combining mechanical and electrical components to form a harmonious driving character. The 50-year-old Italian was one of the first engineers selected by founder and CEO William Li to join Nio. When the brand was founded in 2016, he became director of advanced engineering.

Teobaldi started working at what is perhaps the most prominent Chinese electric vehicle start-up, after a nine-year stint as head of vehicle concepts at Italdesign in Italy and five years as head of vehicle architecture and advanced engineering at Qoros, a China-based company . brand run in a partnership between Chery and the Israeli government.

Shortly after his appointment, he established Nio’s engineering center in Oxfordshire as a satellite operation to support the company’s other vehicle development activities in Shanghai, Beijing, Hefei, Nanjing, Munich and San Jose.

Since then, each of Nio’s eight production models – including the ET5, ET5 Touring, EL6, ET7 and EL7 sold in five European countries – has benefited from his input. Most specifically this focused on chassis tuning, in which the British-based engineering team is playing an increasingly prominent role.

“We develop a specific suspension setup for each market region, taking into account different customer requirements and different road conditions,” he says.

It wasn’t until 2021 and Nio’s entry into the Norwegian market with the ES8 that the first European-spec model was launched.

Like the models planned for Britain, that model will get its own chassis tuning for Europe, with steering, spring, damper and bushing characteristics different from those of the ES8 sold in China. These are features that have now been applied to other Nio models currently sold in left-hand drive European markets.

Teobaldi says: “Most Chinese customers attach great importance to secondary driving, so shock absorption is important. They are more tolerant of large body movements.

“European customers, without generalizing too much, are the opposite. They want good body control, so cushioning is very important. At the same time, they are more tolerant when it comes to speeding.”

Oxfordshire, says Teobaldi, is the perfect location for Nio to refine that bespoke dynamic character: “We use specialist engineers and world-class testing facilities.

It also offers many opportunities for technology scouting. There are developments here that you don’t see anywhere else.”

Recently, Nio’s British engineering team has been heavily involved in the development of the new ET9. The 5325 mm long Mercedes-Benz S-Class rival is the first Nio model with ‘steer-by-wire’ functionality and active suspension.

The latter, developed in collaboration with the American company Clearmotion, works in the same way as the Rausch & Pausch (Rapa) system of the Porsche Panamera. In this setup, electro-hydraulic pumps behind each wheel continuously change damping and ride height to counter pitch, dive and body movements.

Teobaldi confirms that the British engineering team is not only involved in the development of Nio brand models. It also contributes to the development of new models of the Shanghai company’s new sub-brand projects Onvo and Firefly.

Onvo will launch later this year with a range of mid-size models and Firefly is expected to start sales in 2025 with a range of smaller models designed specifically with European customers in mind.

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