China electric vehicle startup and Tesla competitor NIO is planning a U.S. stock market listing valued at up to $2-billion in 2018.

According to Reuters, as part of the venture, eight banks, including but not limited to Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, and Goldman Sachs, have been enlisted to start planning the IPO, which will work to fund expansion in the development of its autonomous driving and battery technologies. Future projections cap NIO’s IPO value as the largest since China’s largest e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba’s 2014 $25-billion valuation.

The previous investment round led by NIO was worth $1-billion, filed last Dec., with Tencent Goldings Ltd., China’s largest company, as its primary backer, increasing its valuation to $5-billion.

Founded in 2014 by entrepreneur William Lee, its first firing shot at Tesla was the China-exclusive ES8, its approximately $67,000 all-electric seven-seater SUV launched in Dec. 2017, priced half of a Tesla Model X as its first mass-produced vehicle.

Top line specifications include a 4.4-second, zero-to-62 mph time, and an ultra-long 9.8-foot wheelbase. All contribute to a “mobile living space” theme that offers configurable seating, a “Lounge Seat,” a 23-sensor driver assistance system, and NOMI, its proprietary artificial intelligence system that “reads” passengers to return output through music and other cloud applications.

On the infrastructure side, current plans include continued expansion of its “Power Swap” charging station network, offering three-minute refills.The initiative will also include “Power Mobile” vehicles which will travel to car owner destinations to charge. Last month, Shanghai government also awarded a license (along with SAIC Motor) for it to test its autonomous vehicles in the region, initially to be concentrated within a restricted area before eventually expanding.

Very little specificity exists regarding NIO’s U.S. expansion plans, but the company has expressed a desire to introduce an autonomous electric vehicle to the U.S. by 2020.

[Source: Reuters]