It took Chinese EV maker NIO only one and a half months from the unveiling of the ET5 electric sedan to the start of production of validation prototypes.
The company shared photos on Weibo of the first vehicles that rolled off the assembly line on January 23. NIO says this is an important part of the Validation Build phase, which will see the ET5 go through a full range of testing and validation work.
The carmaker said it would mainly use these ET5 validation prototypes to optimize the production line process, verify the functional integrity of the vehicle, and validate the properties and performance of the vehicle.
During this stage, engineers will identify potential production problems and improve components and manufacturing processes.
These operations will lay the foundation for mass production of the ET5, NIO said. Prior to building these validation prototypes, the company manufactured the first production line body for the ET5 as part of the Confirmation Build phase.
The company did not specify where these first ET5 validation prototypes were produced, but it appears that they were made at its existing plant, as the new NeoPark facility in Hefei is not yet ready.
The NIO ET5 electric compact sedan was unveiled at the NIO Day 2021 event on December 18, 2021. Slotting under the ET7 flagship sedan in the automaker's lineup, the ET5 is scheduled to start shipping to Chinese customers in September 2022.
NIO has already started taking preorders for the Tesla Model 3 rival, which is expected to start at just over $40,000 in China with a 75 kWh battery offering a claimed range of 550 km (341 miles) as per China's CLTC testing procedure.
Models fitted with the optional Ultralong Range battery (150 kWh) are claimed to offer a driving range of up to 1,000 km (621 miles), while the 100 kWh Long Range pack is good for 700 km (435 miles).
NIO claims the ET5 can sprint to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.3 seconds, thanks to a dual-motor powertrain with a combined output of 480 horsepower and 700 Nm (516 lb-ft) of system torque. The Chinese automaker also mentions attributes like the "perfect" weight distribution, big brakes and a low drag coefficient of 0.24.
The brand is currently present in China and Norway, but plans to expand further into western Europe by launching in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden this year. Speaking of Denmark, The Danish Car Importers Association recently put out a press release confirming that NIO has officially become a member.
NIO has already confirmed the ET7 for sale in Norway and Germany, which likely means the flagship sedan will be sold in the other European markets as well. The more affordable ET5 would make even more sense for Europe, although there's no official confirmation of its availability yet.