Chinese electric car maker launches NIO

Chinese electric-car maker NIO has opened sales of its first vehicle three years after its founding and undercut the price of a rival model from Tesla Inc.

Chinese customers are being offered the ES8 sports utility vehicle, with a range of 500 kilometers (311 miles) on a single charge, for 448,000 yuan ($67,783) as against 836,000 yuan for Tesla's Model X, and 596,300 yuan for BMW's gasoline-powered X5.

''Electrification of automobiles provides us an opportunity to change lanes to lead,'' said William Li, chairman and a founder of NIO, Reuters reported. ''Our goal is to make charging more handy than refueling."

After raising over $1 billion from investors led by Tencent Holdings Ltd, NIO is gearing up for the next phase of growth in the world's biggest electric-car market. In addition to Tesla, the company will need to take on homegrown rivals such as BYD Co, as also industry giants Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co.

NIO, formerly known as NextEV, is among several startups to have sprouted in China in the wake of introduction of incentives for new-energy carmakers to help cut reliance on imported oil.

With governments around the world looking to phase out fossil-fuel-powered vehicles to curb pollution, the race between automakers to develop zero-emission technologies is getting keener, with batteries emerging as the dominant viable alternative to internal-combustion engines.

"It's hard to assume" how this will affect Tesla's sales in China, Li told CNBC over the weekend. "Maybe Tesla will sell less ... after our product is out. Or probably, because the whole market is growing, they will still maintain growth in sales. It's hard to say.

"But we do have lots of customers that turned to us from Tesla, and many who have bought products from both," Li told spoke CNBC on the sidelines of the ES8 launch event.