For a very long time, the upfront purchase price for most full battery electric vehicles was generally way higher than it was for comparable internal combustion engine vehicles. However, besides the obvious environmental benefits of EVs, they have lower operational and maintenance costs, often resulting in a lower total cost of ownership despite having higher upfront purchase costs. That said, unlike fleet managers who work with these types of calculations all day, the average consumer may just look at the upfront purchase price when making their decision to buy a car.
The good news is that more full battery electric cars are now coming in at price parity with comparable ICE cars. In some cases, they are now priced lower than comparable ICE cars. Let’s take a look at the world’s largest auto market, focusing on one of the traditional leaders in the sedan market, the Toyota Corolla, and compare it with a similar BEV sedan, the BYD Qin Plus EV.
Before that, let’s take a look at the new Qin Plus plug-in hybrid. Earlier this year, BYD released the upgraded BYD Qin Plus DM-i plug-in hybrid, the Champion Edition. It has a 1.5L engine coupled with an electric motor producing 180 hp/316 Nm, or 197 hp/325 Nm of torque, for the two variants. These models also get up to 55 km and 120 km NEDC electric range, from 8.32kWh and 18.32kWh Blade battery packs respectively.
Both the 8.32 kWh and 18.32 kWh Qin Plus DM-i models are now cheaper than equivalent Toyota Corolla plugless hybrids in China, as seen in the following table. The 8.32 kWh Qin DM-i with about 55 km NEDC range is also $6,400 cheaper than a 2023 2.0L petrol Toyota Corolla SE sedan.
There is a belief in some circles that it is these affordable plug-in hybrids that are going to really start eating into the market share of full ICE vehicles in China. There is also a strong belief that many families who do not yet own cars in China may be more comfortable starting with a plug-in hybrids than full BEVs for now. Perhaps this is one of the reasons BYD is continuing with its range of “Super Hybrids” in the DM-i and DM-p series. Currently, these DM (Dual Mode) models make up just over 50% of BYD sales. The response to the new Qin Plus DM-i has been quite good, as apparently BYD received over 15,000 orders of this model very quickly after the launch.
Back to the full-BEV Qin Plus EV: The BYD Qin Plus EV Champion Edition was launched last week in China. It comes with a high-efficiency heat pump as standard. The electric motor has been upgraded to 150 kW. So, you can get a full BEV with a heat pump, with a 150 kW motor, and with a 57.6 kWh Blade battery for just $20,350 in China. This should be a hit with taxi companies and rideshare drivers as well as car rental companies at this pricing.
Remember that a 40 kWh Nissan Leaf with a 110 kW motor starts from around £28,995 ($36,000) in the UK and around 196,500 yuan ($28,699) in China. So that means the 48 kWh Qin Plus EV sedan that starts from $18,750 is a whopping $9,949 cheaper than the Leaf! The original 24 kWh Nissan Leaf was one of the leaders of the EV revolution when it was released over a decade ago. The gap in pricing between the second-generation 40 kWh Leaf and the new Qin Plus EV Champion Edition goes to show how far BEVs have come in such a short time — since the second-generation Leaf was released a few years ago.
Although the world is more obsessed with SUVs and crossovers now, these new affordable sedans could perhaps spark a new era for the sedan if rolled out globally at prices that are lower than comparable ICE sedans in those respective markets. Perhaps we also need more BEVs in other segments, like the compact hatchback segment — such as the new BYD e2 BEV to be rolled out globally. It’s great to see that more BEVs are now being launched at prices lower than comparable ICEVs in China. Now we hope to see this replicated globally as quickly as practically possible. BYD is working hard to play its part in this mission. BYD is planning to sell 3.6 million vehicles this year. Just over 50% of those will probably be plug-in hybrids. BYD is also hoping to sell about 800,000 EVs in the export market year. Other manufacturers are also ramping up production and export volumes, including Tesla and SAIC.
Perhaps some of the other Chinese OEMs should also really start to accelerate export expansion plans given the ongoing “price war” and competition in their home market. There are many markets around the world — for example, Australia, where there is demand for more EVs but the market is very supply constrained. Of course, Chinese EVs will cost a lot more in other countries due to local taxes and other shipping and distribution costs, but they will still provide consumers in those markets with a wider pool of EVs to choose from. Countries such as South Africa are also starved of more affordable EVs and could be decent markets for these OEMs to look at, especially for these more affordable sedans and hatchbacks. Of course, it’s not all about China. Other OEMs from South Korea, Europe, etc. should also be thinking about accelerating any overseas expansion plans for their range of EVs.
The EV industry has moved on now from the era where most needed to focus on high-performance, high-margin models to fuel their growth to the present day market where we see mass production of basic plain vanilla EV sedans that are competitively priced with similar basic ICE sedans. Exciting times ahead in the auto sector!
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