Chinese startup NextEV is the latest company attempting to replicate the success of Tesla with a long-range electric car.

NextEV launched its Nio brand last year in dramatic fashion with the EP9—a 1,360-horsepower electric supercar.

At the time, the company noted it was developing a model that would be at least a bit more relevant to the average consumer than that low-volume exotic.

DON'T MISS: Nio electric SUV, from Chinese NextEV, to have 'Toyota cost' and 'Tesla range' (Dec 2016)

That model is heralded by the Nio Eve concept, which was unveiled Friday not at any auto show but at the SxSW music, art, and media festival in Austin, Texas.

Nio plans to launch a self-driving electric car in the U.S. by 2020," U.S. boss Padmasree Warrior said at the Eve concept's unveiling.

With a tall roof and rear hatch, the Eve vaguely resembles the electric SUV Nio has hinted will be its first production model.

Nio Eve concept, 2017 SXSW

Nio Eve concept, 2017 SXSW

Nio will develop an SUV with range and performance comparable to a Tesla Model X at a "Toyota price," co-founder Jack Cheng said late last year.

However, Nio supplied no technical specifications for the Eve, saying only that its concept vehicle was autonomous.

Extremely short front and rear overhangs highlight the Eve's lack of a combustion engine, and the interior is accessed through a pair of sliding doors—something that might be difficult to translate into a production vehicle without evoking images of family minivans.

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Inside the lounge-like cabin, passengers interact with a digital assistant called Nomi, either verbally or via an augmented-reality display on the windshield.

The Eve is completely autonomous, with no steering wheel or pedals in evidence.

Nio has already demonstrated its self-driving technology to some extent, having sent its EP9 supercar out to lap Austin's Circuit of the Americas racetrack at 160 mph.

Nio Eve concept, 2017 SXSW

Nio Eve concept, 2017 SXSW

But, as with most startups, its ability to produce cars in volume remains unclear.

Nio is expected to put as much emphasis on its home market of China as the U.S., possibly launching its electric SUV there first before attempting to bring it across the Pacific.

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A previous report indicated Nio would partner with Chinese automaker JAC Motors to manufacture the vehicle.

That would at least give the startup company a head start in the manufacturing process, drawing on the expertise of a company that's been making cars in volume for decades.

Nio Eve concept, 2017 SXSW

Nio Eve concept, 2017 SXSW

Other startups, notably Faraday Future and Lucid Motors, are faced with building their own factories from scratch ahead of the launch of their first production cars.

That has already caused delays for Faraday, which shut down construction work at its Nevada factory site last year following a dispute with its main contractor.

READ MORE: Bowing to inevitable, Faraday Future scales back plant plans

While many startups seek to emulate Tesla, the Silicon Valley company's success is very much the exception to the rule in the complex and capital-intensive auto industry.

With Nio saying it plans to launch its self-driving car in the U.S. in 2020, we should find out relatively soon whether or not the Chinese company can beat the odds.


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