Zeekr expands into Europe and teases Tesla-beating 001 FR | CAR Magazine
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Zeekr expands into Europe and teases Tesla-beating 001 FR

Published: 22 September 2023 Updated: 22 September 2023

► European Zeekr models to arrive imminently
► The Netherlands, Spain, France, Sweden and Italy all in plan for 2024
► But we’ll wait until at least 2025 for RHD and UK sales

Zeekr is ready for a massive program of expansion through 2024, which should see it hit most of Western Europe with a pair of premium electric cars. Zeekr is an offshoot of Geely, and so the first model ranges have been engineered around Geely’s Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) – the same platform that also underpins the Smart #1 electric crossover. Geely also owns Volvo, Polestar, Lynk & Co and Lotus, among other brands.

It’ll bring the 001 shooting brake and the X SUV to market, with sales starting later this year.

But expansion into the UK will have to wait a while – until at least 2025. A Zeekr representative told us that ‘the only plans set in stone are the 2024 ones’, which don’t involve the UK. ‘After that, anything’s possible.’

Zeekr electric cars: a quick guide to the model range

A simple choice of two Zeekr models will be launched in Europe from autumn 2023:

  • Zeekr 001 A luxury shooting brake
  • Zeekr X (below) An urban SUV
Zeekr X is one of the two-car launch range for Europe

The company announced that it would launch in Sweden and the Netherlands in the fourth quarter of 2023. Its Euro HQ will be based in Amsterdam, while its technical base is in Gothenburg, alongside the Volvo/Polestar/Lynk & Co facility on Sweden’s south coast.

Don’t expect a formal dealer network: the brand is cutting out the middleman with what it calls ‘a direct-to-customer business model’ that relies on digital touchpoints and central fulfilment centres. Zeekr’s partnered with Plugsharing to provide a seamless charging network, and local partners will deal with maintenance. A partnership with BNP Paribas will ensure competitive Europe-wide finance packages.

Zeekr 001 FR takes on Tesla

Zeekr also took the opportunity at the European launch of the X to show off its 001 FR, a hyper-powerful version of the 001 with the stats – on paper, at least – to show the Tesla Model S Plaid a clean pair of heels.

With a stonking 1248bhp from a quartet of silicon carbide motors, Zeekr claims 0-62mph in 2.07 seconds. The tri-motor Plaid claims 0-60mph in 1.99 seconds. Both figures are with a one-foot rollout.

Zeekr 001 FT - rear three quarter

It’s impossible to say which would be faster under identical conditions without testing them, though it’s worth noting that the 001 FR has a lower top speed than the Elon-mobile, at ‘just’ 174mph, compared with 200mph for the Tesla.

A 100kWh ‘Qilin’ battery is said to provide excellent energy density and 800V electronics give a fast charge in just 15 minutes. From what percentage and to what percentage is unclear. High-performance Brembo brakes should, at least, make sure you stop about as quickly as you accelerate.

Production will be limited to just 99 units per month, and the first allocation sold out in 19 seconds, so we might be waiting a while for any 001 FRs to leave China. A Zeekr representative told us ‘Zeekr will be in the UK before the 001 FR is in Europe’. So there’s something to look forward to.

When can I buy a Zeekr EV in the UK?

The brand has not yet confirmed right-hand drive sales for British customers. Zeekr is analysing the market potential and a decision will be announced soon.

Zeekr 001 has an electric range of 372 miles

Zeekr CEO Andy An said: ‘It’s been just two years since we revealed our first state-of-the-art electric vehicle – the Zeekr 001 [above]. The response from customers to our brand has been incredible with over 93,000 units sold already. After the last round of A-Series funding, which raised $750 million, Zeekr was valued at $13 billion, and building on that success, we are excited to launch our brand in Europe as a key step in our global strategy.’

The company might be small today, but it is aiming for 650,000 annual sales by mid-decade – fuelled by an eight-model line-up and sales expanding to include Europe and, by 2024, the United States.

That’s some step up from the 93,000 vehicles sold in its first two years. But with the might of Geely behind it, who’d bet against Zeekr?

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, car news magnet, crafter of words