NextEV, the Chinese-backed electric vehicle start-up headed by former president of Ford of Europe Martin Leach, is on track to reveal its first car, a battery-powered hypercar, “somewhere in Europe” before the end of the year.
Speaking to Autocar ahead of this weekend's Formula E finale, where NextEV is fielding two racing cars, Leach said that the hypercar was at an advanced stage of development, and that his team had already pushed its powertrain beyond producing one megawatt, which equates to about 1341bhp.
The car (imagined by Autocar in our image above) is expected to have performance similar to the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari and to rival both cars on price. It has been under development at the company’s Munich design centre for the past two years, but it will be built at a new UK location.
Leach revealed that information is shared between NextEV's three arms - a technology division, racing division and supercar division - so lessons learned on the race track in what has been a tough year for the team could directly influence the hardware that goes onto the hypercar. NextEV's racing team has used a dual-motor setup on its electric racing car, which started the season 65kg heavier than some of its rivals. "But we've managed take 20kg out of that figure now," added Leach, "by shaving off the weight".
He said that this weight saving knowledge would benefit the road car, and dismissed concerns that it might struggle to offer a competitive range, claiming that "it's a hypercar so it's both aerodynamic and light, two things that are most important in maximising range".
Still a start-up
Leach emphasised how his company is still in the 'start-up phase' of its life. "We've only been around since last year and we're planning on revealing the supercar this year. That's a very fast rate of development for a new company."
NextEV was founded “on a handshake” during the 2014 Paris motor show by Chinese internet billionaire William Li and Martin Leach, who, before becoming Ford of Europe’s boss, was its head of product development. The firm has since hired Cisco Systems’ former chief technology officer, Padmasree Warrior, to run its US operations, where headline software development is taking place.
Although NextEV’s first model is aimed at the billionaire fraternity, Leach has insisted the company has bigger ambitions than being a supercar manufacturer.
“The first car is designed to attract attention and to show what we can do from a technology standpoint,” he said earlier this year. “But we will ultimately offer a wider range of models.” Early reports have called NextEV a Tesla rival, but Leach demurs, insisting its range will aim to offer levels of universal convenience and accessibility associated with mobile phones.
“We want our company’s reputation for premium products to be geared to quality and customer satisfaction, not price,” he said. “The world market for cars was 90 million units last year and we see opportunities across the whole market.”
Leach won’t be drawn on NextEV’s early production targets, but the company’s serious intent is underscored by the fact that it already has 1000 staff working at six locations in Europe, Asia and the US and plans to reach 5000 employees before the end of next year.
Autocar understands NextEV could be making 500,000 cars in the next few years, concentrating at first on the Chinese market, where favourable conditions exist for electric cars and there is an urgent, government-backed need to reduce car emissions.
Steve Cropley and Sam Sheehan