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Summary:There are only 3 countries in the world that can make more than 10 million all-aluminum Electric Vehicles per year. NIO happens to be in one of them that can make 100 million per year, and Li Bin has taken full advantage of this fact. No other country can copy NIO at a large scale since there is simply not enough aluminum (unless heavy imports are done which will further drive up the price of aluminum).
Two of the above 3 countries have to use up their entire aluminum production to achieve 10 million all-aluminum cars, which is not practical since there are other important uses for aluminum besides cars.
The clear benefit of aluminum over steel is that it is lighter. The NIO ES8 uses an all-aluminum frame, which is about 40% lighter than traditional steel bodies (density of steel 7.8 g/cm3> aluminum 2.7 g/cm3).
With a lighter body, an all-aluminum car would be able to travel further than a steel car per unit of battery power. It is very clear that an all-aluminum car is superior to a steel car.
The genius of Li Bin’s strategy is that no country can copy this all-aluminum strategy on a large scale, as shown in the calculations below. To further add to this, Li Bin must have thought and planned for this very early, well before the factory of ES8 was built.
How many All-Aluminum Cars can each Country make per year
China produces 36,000,000,000 kg of aluminum in a year. Since one NIO ES8 contains 335 kg of aluminum, that means that:
China can make 36,000,000,000/335 = 107 million aluminum cars per year
Similar calculation for India, India produces 3,700,000,000 kg of aluminum in a year. Since one NIO ES8 contains 335 kg of aluminum, that means that:
India can make 3,700,000,000/335 = 11 million aluminum cars per year
We do the other calculations in the table below. Note that India and Russia have to use up 100% of their aluminum in order to exceed the 10 million aluminum cars target per year. Other countries cannot make more than 10 million all-aluminum cars even if they use up all their aluminum production.
Ren Shaoqing NIO – Top Researcher in Autonomous Driving
Not many people know this, but NIO car manufacturer’s head of AI, Ren Shaoqing (任少卿) is an absolute genius in the field of autonomous driving. In this blog post, we will detail facts about Dr Ren Shaoqing and his research in self driving and autonomous driving technology. We will also introduce other top researchers in the field of autonomous driving. All our sources are from Google Scholar and other trusted sources.
Ren Shaoqing NIO – the secret weapon of NIO Autonomous Driving
Everyone knows that the main trumps of electric vehicles are clean energy, and autonomous driving. NIO has managed to hire the top researcher in the field of autonomous driving. They are quite low profile about it, not many people know about this at the moment.
Just click on the Google Scholar (Autonomous Driving) link, it will show you the full ranking of the top researchers in the field of autonomous driving, ranked by the official Google Scholar algorithm according to citation count.
Just look at the top researcher in the list, it is Dr Ren Shaoqing of NIO, with a whopping 111,396 citation count (as of Dec 2020). Citation counts are a way of measuring the impact of a researcher’s work. Basically, the more citation counts means the more people are noticing and citing the researcher’s papers. Ren Shaoqing’s citation count of 111k is typically 10 times more than a Full Professor at most universities.
In terms of quantity of citations, it is clear that Ren Shaoqing (NIO’s head of AI), is at the top of the game. How about quality of research?
Dr Ren Shaoqing’s research quality is top notch as well!
Ren Shaoqing NIO – Achievements in the field of Autonomous Driving
First author paper at NIPS (Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems), which is one of the best conferences in computer science. The paper’s topic is “Faster R-CNN: Towards real-time object detection with region proposal networks”. Real-time object detection is very related to autonomous driving, it helps the car detect objects and obstacles in real time.
CVPR Best Paper Award, 2016. CVPR is the premier annual computer vision event comprising the main conference and several co-located workshops and short courses. His co-authored award winning paper is titled “Deep Residual Learning for Image Recognition”.
In case, if anyone is thinking that Dr Ren Shaoqing is just an academic nerd with no business experience, that would be totally wrong! He has business and startup experience as well, he co-founded an autonomous driving software startup Momenta.ai, which grew into unicorn (private company with a valuation over $1 billion) in three years, aiming to help people live a better life with improved safety and efficiency of driving through artificial intelligence.
More of Ren Shaoqing’s achivements in autonomous driving and self driving can be found on his personal website.
Some of the comments on Ren Shaoqing’s personality can be found on Chinese website Zhihu (Chinese version of Quora):
Ren Shaoqing is a young guy, he is very humble with no airs. He is a very refined person, and his team is very close to him. Shaoqing’s style of doing things does not seem to be hurried, his style is slow and steady, but when it comes to “fighting”, he is also super persistent. I remember that there was a period of time when he spent the whole day in various meetings and interviews, which lasted until after 12am midnight. At this time, he did not leave office in a hurry, but continued to do some work that could only be done by calming down in the quiet of the night. In the early days, he was mainly responsible for the research and development of visual perception. Later, he was responsible for the projects related to autonomous driving on highways for a period of time. When I left, he was still responsible for the research and development of visual perception.
Other than Ren Shaoqing of NIO, there are also other genius top researchers in the field of Autonomous Driving. Interestingly, the third highly ranked researcher in Autonomous Driving (Dr Zhou Xing) is also affiliated to NIO!
We compile some of the top researchers in autonomous driving in the table and barchart below.
Top Researchers in Autonomous Driving and Computer Vision
We list 15 top researchers (with more than 1000 citations) in the field of autonomous driving and computer vision. Notice that #1 and #3 on the list are from NIO!
Shaoqing Ren (NIO)
Andrew Blake (Samsung)
Zhou Xing (NIO, Stanford)
Raquel Urtasun (Uber, University of Toronto)
Andrej Karpathy (Tesla)
Jonathan P. How (MIT)
Gang Wang (Alibaba)
Uwe Franke (Daimler Mercedes-Benz)
Fisher Yu (ETH Zurich)
Dmitri Dolgov (Google)
Markus Enzweiler (Daimler Mercedes-Benz)
John M. Dolan (Carnegie Mellon University)
Forrest Iandola (Tesla)
Xinzhou Wu (XPENG)
Tianjun Xiao (Tesla)
We can see from the barchart above that all 15 researchers (ranging from NIO, Tesla, XPENG) are very excellent in their field, producing research with more than 1000 citations in the field of autonomous driving or closely related fields like computer vision.
It is clear that Ren Shaoqing is one of the brightest stars in this exciting new field of Autonomous Driving!
Ren Shaoqing – the 21st Century Zhuge Liang of Autonomous Driving
Based on Ren Shaoqing’s personality (devoted and extremely hardworking 鞠躬尽瘁, but yet calm and unhurried) and achievements in autonomous driving, he bears close resemblance to a legendary character in Chinese history: Zhuge Liang.
In Chinese history or legend, Zhuge Liang was a famous military strategist and inventor. He is said to invent the first self-driving (or self-walking) cow, called the Wooden Cow Flowing Horse (木牛流马). It was said to be able to walk by itself and was used to transport grain during the Northern Expedition.
Hence, Zhuge Liang can be said to be the father of autonomous driving or self-driving, according to legend. Will Ren Shaoqing (NIO’s head of AI) become the Zhuge Liang of the 21st Century and invent the perfect autonomous self-driving car?
Currently, there is no NIO book available as history is still being written! We will definitely add them here if books on NIO become available. For a deeper insight into Electric Vehicles and Autonomous Vehicles, there are several great books on Amazon.
Interesting real life video of NIO car battery swap. Interestingly, the NIO car BaaS battery swap center in Shanghai is right next to its competitor Tesla’s Supercharger! The battery swap section is right at 8:55.
The above YouTube channel is a reliable and unbiased one, not set up specifically to promote NIO. It has been around for years, showing how the channel’s owners who are just in their 40s “retire” in Malaysia. They are currently back in Shanghai, not sure if it is permanent or just temporary to avoid the COVID situation in Malaysia.
By the way, in the video, the people are discussing how a house in Shanghai costing 6 million RMB (or almost 1 million USD) is “cheap”! This shows how rich the people in Tier 1 cities in China are, buying an electric car is no big deal for them, as long as the quality is good.
The video above is another authentic video from a real life NIO owner, performing battery swap in another Tier 1 city in China, Shenzhen. The entire battery swap process takes around 4.5 minutes, provided there is no long queue. This is just as fast or even faster than refilling petrol.
Battery swap can be considered as a moat of the company NIO. It is not easy for other car companies to suddenly switch to battery swapping since that would involve significantly redesigning their car or factory.
NIO cars can also charge the battery the conventional way, in addition to battery swapping. Another advantage of battery swapping is that older NIO car models can easily “upgrade” to a newer battery, for example from 70 kWh to 100 kWh.
Check out NIO’s CEO Li Bin launching the new 100 kWh battery in the video below, just recently in November 2020. The 100 kWh battery is on par with Tesla’s Model S.
Tesla is a famous company founded by billionaire genius Elon Musk. Elon Musk is the CEO and founder of multiple high-tech companies such as Tesla, SpaceX and Open AI.
It is highly recommended for gifted kids and parents to read about Elon Musk and his unique childhood and personal traits. Currently, there is a promotion where you can listen to the bestselling audiobook free if you Try Audible Plus.
Firstly, we introduce the founder of NIO, Li Bin, as a comparison to Tesla’s Elon Musk. Li Bin was born in a poor cow farmer’s household in Anhui, China. His home did not have electricity until he was around 10 years old. His brilliance was noticed early in life, where he emerged the top scholar in the Anhui province in the Gaokao exams and entered the best university in China, Peking University. In Peking University, he majored in sociology, and minored in law and computer science.
Before NIO, Li Bin has founded or cofounded multiple successful companies, including:
Bitauto (易车), a leading provider of internet content & marketing services, and transaction services for China’s automotive industry.
MoBike, a bike sharing platform in China.
Under Li Bin, NIO is the only other EV company to follow Elon Musk’s tried and tested Master Plan:
Tesla’s “master plan”, as iterated by Musk in 2006 was: Build sports car. Use that money to build an affordable car. Use that money to build an even more affordable car. While doing above, also provide zero-emission electric power generation options.
The first step of Tesla’s “master plan” is to build a sports car. NIO has already built the EP9 car which is one of the world’s fastest supercar. It has broken multiple records, and can reach a top speed of 350 km/h.
True to the “Master Plan”, NIO has next built more affordable cars, such as the latest NIO EC6. The EC6 is a fully-electric mid-size luxury crossover SUV, just announced in late 2019 by NIO.
NIO vs Tesla China
NIO is initially aiming for a share in China’s enormous EV (Electric Vehicle) market, which is the world’s biggest market for EVs. Subsequently, it has plans to expand into Europe and the rest of the world.
NIO does not have its own factory currently (it has a joint factory with the state-owned JAC Motors in Hefei). This may change in the future. The JAC-NIO factory is impressive, and has up to 97.5% automation rate. Note that Apple also doesn’t have its own factory, hence not having a factory can’t be said to be a fatal flaw of NIO.
NIO Future Plan and Potential
NIO’s future plan is to produce more models of cars, including two sedans (ET5 and ET7), as well as a minivan (EF9) and another SUV (ES7).
NIO focuses a lot on good service, and provides several unique services, most notably BaaS (Battery as a Service). BaaS allows NIO cars to swap their batteries, which is currently much faster than charging. In addition, most Asian countries, including top tier cities in China, simply do not have enough space for a charging station for each household. Hence, BaaS will be a great differentiating factor which gives NIO an edge over its competitors.
As for NIO’s potential, just watch this video on top 30 most industrialized countries in the world. NIO is the premier high end electric vehicle manufacturer in China, and all signs are pointing to it having a great potential in the future (if things go smoothly).
A moat is a key competitive advantage that sets a company apart from its competitors. NIO’s first moat is its unique BaaS. Since a car’s model cannot easily change (due to the factories’ fixed specification), should BaaS battery swapping become the trend, NIO will be the sole company that provides it and will have at least a few years’ lead ahead of its competitors.
NIO’s second moat is its infrastructure and domestic home ground advantage. NIO’s autonomous driving system is naturally trained in China’s traffic conditions. Even in the event of slightly inferior autonomous driving technology (which is still highly debatable), the end result would still be better than a top driving system trained in another country’s very different traffic conditions, including different driver behavior and different road signs.
NIO backed by government
Many signs have shown directly or indirectly that NIO is backed by the government. Firstly, JAC Motors with whom NIO has a joint factory with, is a Chinese state-owned automobile and commercial vehicle manufacturer.