The catch: The EP9 costs nearly $1.5 million. NIO, a Chinese-Western hybrid with bases in Shanghai, London and Silicon Valley, created it to showcase the company's technology and had no sales plans. But it is taking orders for "bespoke vehicles" after hearing from buyers ready to pay the eye-popping price.
"We are actually pleasantly surprised how much interest we are getting," said the CEO of NIO's U.S. unit, Padmasree Warrior, a veteran of Cisco and Motorola.
NIO is part of a wave of fledgling automakers - all backed at least in part by Chinese investors - that are propelling the electric vehicle industry's latest trend: ultra-high-performance cars.
Manufacturers including Detroit Electric, Qiantu Motor, Thunder Power and NEVS aim to compete with Europe, Detroit and Japan by offering top speeds over 150 mph (240 kph) and features including carbon fiber bodies and web-linked navigation and entertainment.
The ventures mix U.S. and European technology with Chinese money and manufacturing, reflecting this country's rise as a market and investor for an industry where Beijing wants a leading role. Communist leaders see electric vehicles as a way to clear China's smog-choked cities and as an engine for economic development.
"We really haven't seen non-Chinese companies get into this super-technology market," said Chris Robinson, who follows the industry for Lux Research.
NIO's backers include Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings, operator of the popular WeChat messaging service; computer maker Lenovo Group, a Singapore government-owned investment fund and U.S.-based IDG Capital, TPG and Hillhouse Capital.
Some brands are following the strategy of Tesla Inc., which debuted with an eye-catching roadster to establish a premium image before launching lower-priced models.
The instant torque and acceleration of electric cars make them natural performance vehicles.
Detroit Electric, a revival of a pioneering U.S. electric car brand founded in 1907, launched a sports car venture this year with a Chinese battery maker and the government of Yixing, west of Shanghai. For a base price of $135,000, the company promises zero to 60 mph (100 kph) in 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph (250 kph).