Australia’s distributor for electric car and bus maker BYD says tens of millions of dollars have been spent on a right-hand drive production line at one of the company’s Chinese ‘mega factories’, with the building of 15,000 electric SUVs for this market to kick off “shortly”.

Called the Yuan Plus at home in China, the electric SUV looks set to be rebranded as the BYD Atto 3 here.

Updated Feb 17: BYD Australia just put the above pic on its Facebook page, confirming the first mainstream EV it offers will be indeed a renamed version of the Yuan Plus. I’ve pulled this Feb 15 story forward, added the image, and left the rest as-is for now – MC.

The launch is marked on the company’s website as February 19 at 7pm AEST, meaning it’ll be part of a previously publicised ‘VIP’ event at a new ‘BYD Experience Centre’ in trendy inner-Sydney haunt Darlinghurst. 

Vertically-integrated BYD is better-known in the west as a maker of electric buses and as a supplier of battery packs, and for many years has counted Warren Buffett as a major investor.

Now, it’s rolling out its cars beyond China to Europe, Australia and elsewhere.

BYD’s nominated importer, called Nexport, trades under the branding EVDirect and plans to sell high volumes of affordable BYD (‘Build Your Dreams’) EVs through its e-commerce page, to be supported by Mycar – previously Kmart Tyre and Auto – as a delivery and servicing partner. 

EVDirect says it also plans to offer what it calls “the country’s biggest market-driven EV stimulus” with $500 million worth of low-interest finance (as low as 3.81 per cent) to be offered.

MORE: MG Australia supplying up to 3000 EV chargers for rural hotels

It’s worth pointing out that the BYD/Nexport/EVDirect distribution deal has been talked about publicly since February 2021, though the scale of the relationship suggests a lot has been happening behind the scenes. We will be keenly watching the February 19 event.

By the end of 2022 you can expect to see a cavalcade of cheap Chinese EVs on sale, including the updated MG ZS EV (number-two in market behind the Shanghai-made Tesla Model 3 already), Great Wall’s Ora Cat, and the BYD family.

“BYD is the biggest global company that most people have never heard of. BYD is one of the world’s leading advanced battery manufacturers with a significant proportion of mobile phone companies using BYD batteries,” said EVDirect CEO Luke Todd.

“This technology, combined with the world’s leading European and global car design teams has now merged into building exciting passenger EVs, and they are now available nationally via our sales platform.”

While small numbers of BYD T3 electric vans and E6 people-movers have been launched already as a kind of aperitif, the company’s big push into Australia is to come from the Atto 3 to be sold “at price parity to comparable high-quality petrol cars”.

The Atto 3 should therefore line up against fellow Chinese EV, the MG ZS, and the new Hyundai Kona Electric Standard Range at the ‘cheaper’ end of the burgeoning electric SUV market.

Official details are a little thin on the ground, but the 4455mm long Yuan Plus uses a 150kW and 330Nm electric drive motor according to a declaration to the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

A range of 500km has been spoken about but we’d expect the WLTP (European-standard) figure, relatively reliable in the real world, will be a bit lower.

BYD’s new e-platform 3.0 for EVs can offer up to 800V charging capacity in some applications and uses the company’s proprietary lithium iron phosphate Blade Battery – the very ones that reports suggest Tesla wants to use.

In addition to the Yuan Plus/Atto 3 here, Nexport has also pledged to sell the BYD EA1 (Dolphin in China) small EV hatch pictured above from 2022 with a target price of $35,000-$40,000 and a focus on ride-share operators.

“By August 2023, we will offer six BYD models through our unique e-commerce platform. We greatly look forward to expanding and strengthening our relationship with mycar in the years to come,” Mr Todd previously said.

Nexport is a part of the TrueGreen Group investment fund, and supplies EV buses to the NSW government.

TrueGreen’s Mobility division received a $20 million injection from Australia’s St Baker Energy Investment Fund, which lists in its portfolio battery developer Novonix and public charge provider Evie, and has invested in Australia’s DC ‘unicorn’ Tritium – which resides on the Nasdaq.

This level of affiliation with Evie and Tritium theoretically opens the door to offering BYD EV owners charging solutions at their bases of operation, and smooth access to a growing public charger network.

Just a few of the most anticipated EVs launching this year – most, like the cars already listed, will be subject to short supplies for the foreseeable – include (alphabetically):

  • Cupra Born
  • Genesis GV60
  • Great Wall Motor Ora Cat
  • Kia EV6
  • Mercedes-Benz EQS
  • MG ZS EV update
  • Polestar 2
  • Tesla Model Y
  • Toyota bZ4X
  • Volvo C40

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MORE: Electric 2022 BYD E6 set for local launch with $40k list price
MORE: BYD’s importer takes huge EV order from Uber partner
MORE: BYD promises to slash Australian electric car prices

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MORE: Northern Territory commits to electric car incentives
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MORE: How Australia’s federal opposition proposes to slash EV prices

Mike Costello
Mike Costello is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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