As Mildura faces what is expected to be its hottest day on record, two mystery electric cars have been spotted in camouflage in a carpark of the Victorian town.
Covered in a wrap of concentric circles to conceal the identities of the electric cars, Twitterer David Cao (who spotted the vehicles) posted the photos on the social media channel last night.
“Camouflaged EV doing warm weather testing in Mildura. The Byton M-Byte maybe?” he wrote.
— David Cao (@DavidCaoEV) January 24, 2019
Byton is a Chinese auto startup that last year raised a sizeable chunk of money in a bid to secure a piece of the huge Chinese EV market.
It’s first concept EV, the M-Byte, was unveiled at CES2018 in Los Angeles – but it’s not the mystery EV spotted in Mildura.
While at first glance it appears to have a somewhat similar configuration on the nose – the triangular indicator lights, for example:
However on closer inspection, the headlights on the mystery EVs are more tapered, and the profile more prominent than that of the M-Byte.
In fact, it appears the mystery vehicles are most likely to be from another Chinese automaker – the recently launched Nio ES6 with 510km range (NEDC).
While some on Twitter have conjectured that the mystery vehicles are Nio’s other all-electric SUV, the ES8 which Nio says it will commence deliveries for in March 2019, we here at The Driven suspect it is in fact the ES6.
Compare the side profile of the mystery vehicles, on which the front of the bonnet overhangs the “grille” – the nose of the ES8 is relatively modest whereas on the ES6 it is more pronounced.
Chinese startup Nio, whose Chinese name Weilai means Blue Sky Coming, came to our attention last year when Tesla’s main external shareholder, Baillie Gifford, claimed an 11.4% stake of the startup, causing some to name it China’s answer to Tesla.
Nio launched the all-electric ES6 SUV In December 2018 for the Chinese market with a starting price of 358,000 RMB ($A72,000).
Why is the vehicle in Mildura?
As Cao suggests, it may well be there for warm weather testing of the EV’s battery.
Indeed, while the searing temperatures being experienced by the town today present some very real dangers for residents, the irony of climate-change induced conditions being perfect for testing the EV battery is not lost on us here at The Driven.
But the question that is also raised is whether it is possible that Nio are considering the ES6 for the Australian market?
Many areas of China do experience extreme heat in summer, but being winter there at the moment it is possible that it is simply because Australia present the closest extreme heat conditions for this time of year.
Update: It’s now been confirmed that Nio is indeed testing its electric cars, and (despite our conclusion that the model pictured is an ES6) that in fact 8 ES8s along with 30 of Nio’s engineers have been welcomed by Mildura Council.
Councillor Glenn Milne posted images of himself with the ES8 online, saying, “Checked out the NIO electric cars that are testing air conditioning in Mildura for a couple of months. Mildura has been hosting around 30 engineers from China as well as 7 or 8 vehicles. Pity we don’t have a race track to do some testing on.”
And it’s not the first time! Check out the video of the ES8 being taken through its paces out in the Mildura heat in March 2018:
NIO #ES8 testing in Mildura, Australia “Wings of Summer” video now available to view on our Facebook page. We have nearly completed the 3 million kms ES8 road test. #BlueSkyComing pic.twitter.com/pi8XkQOeNo
— NIO (@NIOGlobal) March 23, 2018
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.