Waking the Sleeping Electric Vehicle Dragons

When we think of cheap or, at least, cheaper electrical items we usually think of the electronic items manufactured in the Far East, particularly by the Chinese. As the world’s largest electronics manufacturers it is perhaps a little surprising that the Chinese haven’t been more prominent in the global EV (Electric Vehicle) industry.

Okay, let me backtrack a little. The Chinese EV giants, BYD, are the second highest selling EV manufacturer in the world just behind Tesla. However, unlike Tesla, you will be unlikely to see any BYD cars gliding down your streets if you wander outside. The reason being that BYD has mainly been dominating the Asian market and has avoided us adoring Europeans. However, this is all about to change, as I will explain shortly.

I will also be showing my appreciation for Chinese wisdom by sharing a few very apt Chinese proverbs in the following paragraphs.

Electric Vehicles – Saving the Earth but Costing the Earth

Right, so everyone is much more environmentally aware these days. We are all mostly getting our heads around electric vehicles and the fact that they are here to stay (well, most of us have evolved thus far anyway). Plus we know that sales of new petrol and diesel will be banned in the UK from 2030. After all, it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. 

So everyone is rushing out to get in the first EV they see, right? Wrong! And there is a very big, and very understandable reason why. 

Electric vehicles, no matter how green and world-saving they are, are really really expensive. Even the cheapest small EVs with less tech and features than some of the bigger premium cars can cost just south of £30,000. This is way beyond what the average person on the street can afford. I have some thoughts on this to share with you later.

Just when you think that you are stuck with your planet-choking diesel, some hope sweeps into view. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s the Chinese. The heroes we want and the heroes we need. When the wind of change blows, some people build walls, others build windmills.

Where have China been on the EV market?

China became synonymous with pollution once their industrial boom started after the bamboo curtain lifted. This was something that really concerned the Chinese government as it was deeply affecting their citizens (well, duh). So in recent years they came up with a swift and very practical solution. 

Using their extensive electronics expertise to explode the EV industry. And, boy, have they done so. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. Electric vehicles are thriving in China and the air quality has improved massively around their major cities as a result.

Not only do the Chinese do electronics better than nearly every other country on the third rock from the sun, they also make it a lot cheaper than anyone else on our little green and blue sphere. 

Here I will look at just two of the EV models we can expect to arrive from Eastern shores in the next year or so. The price of which will amaze you.

The Electric Vehicle World Welcomes the XPENG P5

The first of the new Chinese electric cars that we will be seeing when it comes to Europe in 2022 in the XPENG P5. The base model of this electric vehicle costs under £19,000 (yes, seriously) and it isn’t scrimping on style, design or substance either.

The Xpeng P5 is a family sized saloon car that will have the Tesla Model 3 in its sights as a rival in the electric vehicle market. Although similar in shape, the Xpeng P5 is slightly larger than the American offering from Mr Musk. And, as you would expect, it has a lot more room in the cabin. 

The stats for the Xpeng are also very respectable. The car can go from 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds, it has a top speed of 106mph and, depending on the battery size you choose, it has a range of between 286 and 373 miles. Not too shabby by any standards.

So what is the Xpeng like inside?

It is the tech and the, crazily genius, extra features that really stamps its uniqueness on the EV world stage. The car has the usual connected features that you would find in most EVs, particularly all the newer ones. 

One feature that differs here is that the Xpeng is the first car in the world that includes built-in Lidar sensors. This means the car can differentiate between pedestrians, scooters, vehicles etc. Lidar sensors are the next generation of car radar and will be featured in many new EVs very soon. 

The car also features the incredible Navigation Guided Pilot (NGP) that means that, in self drive mode, the car can handle lane changes, can manage automatic following, it recognises speed limits and traffic light information. The NGP also allows the car to memorise parking locations and, in some situations, can park the car for you. 

The infotainment system in the Xpeng has been described by reviewers as having the best voice control of any system they have come across. This is very high praise indeed.

The roof of the Xpeng contains solar panels which can put power back into the vehicle which is still impressive and useful. The inside features are the biggest surprise though. You can turn the cabin into a lounge room. The seats fold right down and a specially designed inflatable mattress turns the cabin into a double bed. 

Once in bed you can entertain yourself with the in-car cinema experience. A built-in projector in the back can project onto a pull-down screen which attaches to the front of the car. And if you need refreshments, that’s no problem either. In-between the back seats there is a fridge/freezer which can be set between minus 6 degrees celsius and plus 8 degrees celsius through the infotainment screen.

I want one!

Other Xpeng cars have been seen in Norway already, however, they are yet to be made available to the rest of Europe. This will be changing from 2022 when Xpeng are looking to really expand their electric vehicles to the European market

It is exciting to see the start of Chinese genius making its way to the mass market. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step after all.

BYD a Warm Welcome to our Chinese Friends… and Their Dolphins.

BYD (which stands for Build Your Dreams in case you wondered) is a big name in the EV world. And by big I mean huge. And by huge I mean absolutely ruddy massive. Okay, I think you get the point. They’re big. Only Tesla beats BYD when it comes to annual global sales of electric vehicles. So why have I never seen one in the UK? Well, long story short, BYD cars are not sold in the UK. They aren’t even sold in Europe yet. So how did they get so big? 

Well, for a start, the Asian market and thirst for EVs and next generation tech is huge. And with a few billion people, BYD isn’t short of customers. There is also the fact that BYD has created a very wide range of electric vehicles. There are currently 36 electric vehicles being produced by BYD. This includes 18 models of car, 6 models of truck, 6 models of bus, 4 models of coaches and 2 models of van. 

BYD may not be global with their electric cars just yet, however, they have a global presence with some of their other electric vehicles. BYD supplies electric buses and coaches to the US, South America and Australia and they have set up manufacturing hubs around the world. This is a very significant base from which to launch a global EV campaign.

BYD’s latest EV!

The newest offering from BYD is very different to what they have offered before, as I will show you. However, let’s start with the biggest and most staggering bit of information about this car. The price. If you are not sitting down already, I would suggest you pull up a seat before reading any further. 

The base model of the BYD Dolphin (AKA the EA1) is an unbelievable £10,800. Let me write that out in big bold capital-lettered words so the people at the back can hear me. The BYD Dolphin will cost TEN THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED BRITISH POUNDS. I think I’ve made my point. It’s ridiculously cheap. So the car must look, feel and be cheap then? Absolutely not, my friends, ab-so-lutely not!

One thing I think is important to mention about BYD is that the factory is situated in Shenzhen and is right by the ocean. Why is it important to mention this? Well the latest car is a loving ode to the ocean (come on guys! It’s called a Dolphin. The clue was in the name!). However, it’s not just the name that alludes to the ocean. The headlights, for example, are shaped like a dolphin’s eyes. The handles inside the car are shaped like whale fins (whales are members of the dolphin family for those who don’t know), and there are several other strong hints towards the ocean around the vehicle. Aquaman himself would be proud of owning such a car.

The BYD Dolphin is a small hatchback style vehicle. It is very favourably compared to the Ford Fiesta with influences from Citroen cars. It seems almost too obvious this car has been built purposefully for the European market. Small hatchbacks do incredibly well in the European market as they suit the European roads. 

There’s more?

BYD has a world-renowned reputation as being a market leader when it comes to battery technology and design and this has been fully utilised in their latest model. The BYD Dolphin comes fitted with the impressive blade battery. This is a battery that is as powerful as it is safe (very). 

The Dolphin also comes with two battery size options. The base model has a 30kWh battery and is capable of 187 miles of range. The high end model comes with a 45kWh battery and is capable of 251 miles of range. The price of the bigger battery model is not that much more than the base model either, coming in at around £13,800. 

Another interesting feature that the electric vehicle has is the V2L (Vehicle to Load) charging. Next to the charging port there is another plug socket. You can connect a cable to this socket to use it for powering electrical items, just as you can from a standard 3-pin plug socket. A very handy tool for campers or those who spend time outdoors.

So this car is super impressive. It has a lot to offer, it looks good, it is spacious and it is solidly built. It will be the perfect everyday vehicle for the next generation, just as cars like the Ford Fiesta have been for generations past. 

So what brings the costs down? Well, for a start, BYD has done away with some of the small gimmicky things that add costs to a car. For example, the door handles are not flush or retractable, there is no button to automatically close the boot (it’s done the old fashioned way). It is little things like this that have taken a lot of the cost out of the car. There are other factors as well.

The Electric Vehicle Conspiracy Theory… Or Is It?

It seems incredible that these innovative Chinese car manufacturers have been able to produce a car for such a small price when we are seeing similar style cars being sold currently for double the price or more. The low costs of the cars are obviously helped by doing away with some of the gimmicks that you see on premium brands. However, it must be more than that, surely.

A reason given by the automotive industry for electric cars costing far more than their conventionally fuelled compatriots is the fact  that the battery was so expensive, making up most of the cost of the car in fact. 

Okay, this made sense a few years ago when battery technology was newer and not many people were investing in it. However, most of us know that the cost of batteries has fallen through the floor due to so much investment in the technology and the fact that the materials used to build the batteries have become a lot cheaper due to increased supply. The old excuses don’t seem to make much sense anymore.

So how do they do it?

One theory which has been put forward is that the manufacturers themselves have been keeping the prices of EVs much higher than they should be. Robert Llewelyn, the presenter of Fully Charged, seemed to have confirmed this when speaking to an insider in the industry who confirmed that the prices are indeed being kept artificially higher. “Why?” you may well ask. Well, it’s because manufacturers are still making petrol and diesel cars, or at least have a backlog of cars. If the manufacturers made the electric cars available for their true value, they would struggle to sell off the conventionally fuelled vehicles.

The Chinese manufacturers have shown that a much cheaper and more affordable electric vehicle can be made for the mass market. Those that say it cannot be done should not interrupt the people doing it. In other words, the upcoming explosion of cheap Chinese electric cars to Europe, and quality cars at that, will more than likely force the hand of the other manufacturers who have been holding back. 

We all know that in the UK alone we will only be able to buy electric cars from 2030 once the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles kicks in. No manufacturer will want to price themselves out of the market. There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is the same. I just look forward to everyone reaching the EV summit. 

And as for the Chinese manufacturers who are the closest to the peak? Well, to quote Kryten, Robert Llewelyn’s android character from Red Dwarf, “ahhh, smug mode”. 

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