Taking aim at all-conquering Tesla is a bold move by BYD, but it's one which could well come off if the Han EV lives up to the (admittedly limited) information we've been given. The manufacturer is promising some of the automotive industry's most advanced EV technologies as well as very compelling performance and range statistics. It's even pitched the price firmly at the Model 3 market. But how does the car stack up in isolation?
BYD is making much of the Han EV's advanced technologies, chief among which is the so-called 'Blade Battery' which is supposed to enhance safety, improve range and offer a simplified, smaller pack for better overall packaging. In terms of raw numbers, the Blade Battery can produce a stable current of up to 800 Amps which is a very high current level. A silicon carbide motor control module apparently increases the car's peak current capacity by up to 58 per cent which boosts performance. A 50 per cent improvement in efficiency over 'regular' lithium-ion cells has also been touted by BYD.
BYD is heavily touting the safety of the Han EV with Senior Vice President, Yubo Lian, stating: “Its use of the ultra-safe Blade Battery, as well as BYD’s in-house pure electric platform, body structure design, eco-friendly materials and safety systems make the Han EV the safest electric car currently on the market.”
Unveiled in March, the Blade Battery has been shown to be able to maintain a lower temperature when penetrated, be overcharged by 260 per cent with no fire or explosion, and crushed, bent and heated in a furnace to 300 degrees Celsius with no catastrophic failure.
Rivalling Tesla's Autopilot is the Han EV's all-new DiPilot intelligent self-drive system. As well as providing autonomous driving off the bat, DiPilot features self-learning and self-evolution (a fancy way of saying machine learning) to improve over time. Another feature the Han EV will bring to market is the first Chinese EV to use Bosch's IPB Intelligent Integrated Brake System. The car's wider digital systems use 5G connectivity to provide a greater level of intelligence and reliability. Just don't tell that to David Icke-type conspiracy theorists...
Judging by the images provided of the Han EV, the car's a relatively subtle yet handsome thing on the outside. Its focus on being a competitor in Europe is evident in the way it looks, aided in no small way by the fact that BYD's Global Design Director, Josef Egger, oversaw the process – and his CV reads like a who's who of European manufacturers, chief among which was his role as Head of Audi Group Design prior to working at BYD.
BYD calls the look its 'EV Dragon Face' design language, which apparently combines elements of a traditional Chinese dragon with modern European design cues. We'll take their word for that; we just think it looks good!
Inside, BYD is pitching the Han EV at the luxury sector and is promising European build quality and eco-friendly materials. The images show a large central touchscreen (unusually) in landscape format. A sizeable digital cluster for the driver also looks to be present.
Performance wise, BYD hasn't provided battery size or motor power, but with a range of up to 376 miles on the NEDC test and a 0-62mph time of 3.9 seconds. In the WLTP test the range will drop somewhat, and the car does have European homologation to go through, but it's still going to be ultra-competitive, especially at its price point which is forecast to be between £40,000 and £49,000. For the avoidance of doubt, this is the exact same kind of range that the Tesla Model 3 sells for.
As well as the Han EV, BYD is looking to expand into Europe by offering an SUV – the BYD Tang EV600 – to the Norwegian market, and its commercial vehicles into mainland Europe. These will include a panel van, 7.5 tonne and 19 tonne rigid trucks, and a yard tractor for moving trailers around – the type often found at ports where containers are dealt with. Somewhere down the line electric buses may also make it to the west.
The Han EV looks like it could be a fantastic alternative to the Tesla Model 3 – on paper at least. The design is about right for European consumers, the price is definitely right and the information around range, performance and connectivity are ticking a lot of boxes. If BYD can get the build quality right then you'd think it couldn't lose. However, where Chinese brands will struggle is simply in drawing custom away from more established brands. The European market is a tough nut to crack, but BYD seems to have a strong entrant in the Han EV.