The opportunity came up earlier this month to join Motor Distributors Limited (MDL) on a trip to Spain to learn more about the inbound BYD (Build Your Dreams) brand. For those of you not aware, MDL have successfully distributed Mercedes-Benz passenger and commercial vehicles here in Ireland since 1955. They have vast experience working with a number of brands over the years and no doubt have somewhat changed the landscape in Ireland for how vehicles enter the country, and go to market. Now excitement levels are once again palpable, as the company becomes the BYD National Dealer and Partner in the Republic of Ireland.
So who are BYD we hear you ask and furthermore, why haven’t we heard much about this brand to date? Well, describing itself as ‘a global innovator of pioneering battery technology, and creator of some of the world’s most technologically advanced electric vehicles’, BYD has held top place in China for sales of new energy passenger vehicles for 10 years in a row. The company was founded in 1995 with a workforce of 20 people and now employs 600,000 across the automotive, rail transit, new energy, and electronics divisions. Conquering the Chinese market with a population of over 1.4 Billion was indeed their first steps in the Automotive sector but now with new European headquarters in the Netherlands, the BYD Group are making a further commitment to deliver sustainable, safe and efficient new electric vehicles for the European market.
So what sort vehicles are we talking about here and what are they like to drive? First to Irish market will be the C-Segment SUV offering called the ATTO 3. This neat little SUV is built on the company’s e-Platform 3.0 and comes with high levels of standard equipment, technology and safety. Using the incredibly advanced Blade Battery power unit powering a 60.5kWh motor, the 204hp ATTO 3 can blast from 0-100km/h in 7.3 seconds and cover 420km on a single charge. This gives you a WLTP combined figure of 15.6kWh per 100km of energy consumption, which is pretty impressive. There are three driving modes to include Eco, Normal and Sport driving with two different levels of brake energy regeneration that are both pretty mild. All BYD’s have a high-efficiency integrated heat pump as a standard.
We took in a 90-minute test drive over Catalonia’s mountainous back roads and found the ATTO 3 a pleasure to drive. Yes you get the usual bongs, beeps and lane monitoring software that can be somewhat overkill but everything is configurable through the ‘easy to use’ large central 12.8-inch touch screen which can also be rotated 90-degrees at the touch of a button. The visibility is great with the faux leather seats offering comfort and support on par with any of the European rivals. That support was needed also because we found the ATTO 3 had a tendency to torque steer a little when pushed on coming out of a corner. Further inspection revealed the car was indeed on winter tyres having spent some time recently with the media in Germany. With that said, we trust the vehicle would be perfectly compliant on normal rubber giving the fact that it was 24 degrees with road temperatures no doubt higher!
Next to hit the Irish market towards the back end of 2023 will be the Dolphin with a range of 427 km. This vehicle is slightly smaller in stature and will mark the entry point into BYD ownership. Pre production models were available for us to test drive and through a slalom style track session, we got to experience the Dolphin under hard acceleration, braking and cornering. Using the same powertrain as the ATTO 3 it felt very similar and surefooted on Continental Tyres even when driven spiritedly. Cabin space was plentiful in the front and rear even with four 6-footers on board.
It’s hard not to notice that the interior design oozes a certain charm from the “Ocean Aesthetics” which BYD take seriously in their vehicles. Looking at he bigger pictures it is BYD’s ambition to cool the earth by a degree in temperature and indeed to help clean our oceans by harvesting and using as many recycled sustainable materials in production. The cobalt-free Blade Batteries use Lithium Iron-Phosphate (LFP) as its cathode material, which offers a much higher level of safety over conventional lithium-ion batteries. LFP has inherently excellent thermal stability in any conditions, which we found out with our next test drive of the SEAL.
The SEAL is undoubtedly the best looking machine in the BYD family at present. It takes styling cues from a number of vehicles but somehow blends them into a uniquely BYD package which the brand should be very proud of. The SEAL implements something called Cell-to-Body (CTB) technology, which fully integrates the BYD 82kWh Blade Battery into the floor pan structure and enhances the vehicle’s safety. This naturally gives the vehicle a low centre of gravity and crash tests have proved it is incredibly safe. There will be a rear wheel drive only version with 313hp or the dual motor all wheel drive variant with 530hp and range of between 520 km to 570 km.
Our first taste of the good-looking SEAL was on track doing the 0-100km/h sprint. The rear of the car wears a badge that states 3.8S which some might think refers to engine size but it is indeed the time it takes to reach 100km/h from a standing start. We took great pleasure in putting this to the test numerous times and the performance never dropped with the SEAL recording the sprint in 3.8 seconds and in some cases lower! Cabin and build quality look and feel as good as any electric vehicle on the market from not just our American friends but also the current German offerings. Boot space of 402 litres and a 53-litre frunk in the front end of the car makes it super practical to live with. MDL expect to see this vehicle in 2024 but such is the pace from BYD and how they do business, don’t be surprised if they do make it to Ireland later this year!
Just to give you an example of their determination, BYD were not happy with possible logistic partner offerings and price hikes so they purchased 6 cargo vessels at a cost of $700-million to transport up to 7,700 vehicles each to the markets they are now operating in. They have now built over 3-million electric vehicles and operate in over 400 cities across 70 countries and regions on 6 continents. It’s slightly difficult to comprehend the size, scale and pace they are working at but all we can say is, watch this space. The Irish EV market looks set to change and it’s about to get very interesting! At the time of writing a number of ATTO 3’s have arrived into the country. Like always we will do a full comprehensive review on each model after spending some time on familiar roads. All cars will have a least two trim levels to choose from and pricing on each, will be confirmed in the not to distant future.