Exclusive: Nio gives its EVs a "European flavour" in Oxfordshire

Nio ET5 front three quarter
Nio ET5 front three quarter

Each of Nio's models have benefited from the Oxfordshire base's input

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

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

Already active in Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, Nio has yet to officially launch in the UK. Its latest statement points to starting UK sales some time in 2025 as part of a further global expansion that includes right-hand-drive markets for the first time.


Still, Teobaldi is confident that when they do reach the UK, Nio models sold here will reflect the sort 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 is not routine engineering, but what we call attribute integration – the way a car behaves when it is driven. We participate in hardware decisions from the beginning, so what sort of suspension is chosen for any given 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 electric components together to form a harmonious driving character. The 50-year-old Italian was among the first engineers to be chosen by founder and CEO William Li to join Nio, becoming its director of advanced engineering at the brand’s inception in 2016.

Teobaldi started work at what is perhaps the most prominent of China’s electric vehicle start-ups following a nine-year stint as head of vehicle concepts at Italdesign in Italy and five years as head of vehicle architecture and advanced engineering with Qoros, a Chinese-based brand run in a cooperation between Chery and the Israeli government.

Shortly after his appointment, he established Nio’s Oxfordshire engineering centre as a satellite operation to support the company’s other vehicle development operations 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 its input. Most specifically, this has been focused on chassis tuning, in which the UK-based engineering team is taking an increasingly prominent role.

“We develop specific suspension tuning for each market region, taking into account the differing demands of customers and differing road conditions,” he says.

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

Like those planned for the UK, that model receives its own chassis tuning for Europe, with steering, spring, damper, and bushing characteristics differing from those applied to the ES8 sold in China. They are characteristics that have now been brought to other Nio models currently sold in left-hand-drive European markets.

Teobaldi says: “Most Chinese customers place a premium on secondary ride, so shock absorption is important. They are more tolerant to large body motions.

“European customers, without generalising too much, are the opposite. They want good body control, so damping is very important. At the same time, they are more tolerant to ride harshness.”

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

It also provides great scope for technology scouting. There are developments here that you don’t see anywhere else.”

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

The latter, developed in partnership with US company Clearmotion, operates similarly to the Rausch & Pausch (Rapa) system adopted by the Porsche Panamera. Under this set-up, electrohydraulic pumps behind each wheel constantly alter the damping and ride height to counter pitch, dive and body movements.

Teobaldi confirms the UK engineering team is not only involved in the development of Nio-branded models. It is also contributing to the development of upcoming models from the Shanghai company’s new Onvo and Firefly sub-brand projects.

Onvo is set to be launched later this year with a range of mid-sized models and Firefly is scheduled to begin sales in 2025 with a line-up of smaller models conceived specifically with European customers in mind.