17 November 2023

Pre-production version of 'highly anticipated' EV arrives in Canberra

| James Coleman
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BYD Seal

Pre-production BYD Seal in the Canberra Centre. Photo: James Coleman.

A pre-production electric vehicle(EV) from China has turned up in Canberra early to whet buyer appetites in Australia’s EV capital.

First deliveries of the new BYD Seal aren’t expected until the middle of next month, but already, a white one with matching pale interior has made an appearance at the NRMA ‘EV Drive Day’ last weekend, and spent a week outside the LEGO store in the Canberra Centre.

Roc Chen from the BYD Experience Centre in Gungahlin says there has been “lots” of interest from passers-by, even if demand has yet to match their Atto 3 SUV and new Dolphin hatchback models.

“It’s a different kettle of fish.”

READ ALSO The $100 question: Would you get the cheapest EV in Australia over the second cheapest?

This particular Seal was joined by other EVs from Tesla, BMW, Hyundai and Nissan at the Sutton Road Training Centre in Majura from Friday to Sunday last week for NRMA’s EV Drive Day.

ACT Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction Shane Rattenbury described the event as an opportunity for interested buyers to salve their anxiety and “chat to experts about buying, charging, and operating EVs over their full lifespan”.

“There’s no better way to get a true feel for an EV than by getting behind the wheel yourself and seeing exactly how they handle.”

Roc says their two Dolphin variants were on the track “the whole day”, with similar intrigue for the Seal.

“It’s highly anticipated because a lot of people have been keeping their eyes on this for a long time.”

BYD has experimented with battery technology and electric-powered transport for nearly 20 years, but only entered the global car market in 2022 with the Atto 3 SUV, which has become the third best-selling EV in Australia behind the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y.

BYD Seal

The “3.8s” stands for 3.8 seconds, the 0-100 km/h time of the Seal Performance. Photo: James Coleman.

The brand initially promised five new models by the end of 2024, but production delays mean we only received the Dolphin a few months ago. BYD Australia CEO Luke Todd has since promised “another three models for the Australian market” by the end of 2024.

These include mid-sized SUVs like the battery-powered ‘Seal U’ and the ‘Song Plus’ plug-in hybrid, along with a plug-in hybrid dual-cab 4×4 ute, to be followed about a year later by a fully electric version.

At a launch event on 17 November, BYD also unveiled the smaller and swoopy-er ‘Sea Lion 07’ SUV to rival the Tesla Model Y.

For now, the first deliveries of the Seal to Canberra are expected in “about three weeks”.

READ ALSO ‘I don’t know how they afford it’: Canberra owner offers hot hatch to those stuck for a formal car

Roc expects “the style” to win buyers, followed closely by “value for money”.

“You get this performance for this price anywhere else.”

The base ‘Dynamic’ model starts at $49,888, or $12,000 less than the equivalent Tesla Model 3. It comes with a 150 kW electric motor that sends its power through the rear wheels for a 0-100 km/h time of 7.5 seconds. Driving range is estimated at 460 km.

Next up is the Premium, also rear-wheel-drive but with a more powerful 230 kW electric motor and faster 0-100 km/h time of 5.9 seconds. The range is 570 km.

BYD Seal

The centre touchscreen measures more than 15 inches and rotates. Photo: James Coleman.

The top-of-the-range Performance offers more power for the money than any other new car on sale in Australia, at $176.28 per kilowatt. It’s priced from $68,748 and uses a 160 kW motor in the front and 230 kW motor in the back to rocket from 0-100 km/h in 3.8 seconds. Because of the extra weight of the all-wheel drive system, however, range drops to 520 km.

The interior presents similar to that of the Atto 3 and Dolphin across all models, with a swooping design and array of large screens and features that belie the price. We’ll have summer to see how that sprawling panoramic sunroof overhead goes…

BYD vehicles are ordered online at a fixed price (with a $1000 deposit) and delivered to customers via the Eagers Automotive dealership network in Australia. Here in Canberra, the BYD Experience Centre is located at 4 O’Brien Place, Gungahlin.

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Ross of Canberra12:15 am 24 Nov 23

“joined by other EVs … at the Sutton Road Training Centre in Majura from Friday to Sunday”.
It wasn’t there on Friday. (I was.) There was no Tesla and no BMW too. Maybe Nissan was there under a non-Nissan badge (Iconiq?). But Volvo, Kia, Hyundai, Iconiq, Fiat and SAIC were all there. And thre was no Sunday, just Friday and Saturday.
Is any of your news actually fact?

Geoff Semon (thinkzen)8:15 am 20 Nov 23

Chinese manufacturers are using completely different software in overseas markets which is why they had a few bugs in the early days.

Geoff Semon (thinkzen)8:13 am 20 Nov 23

The seal looks nothing like a model 3 inside or out. Its the Atto 3 that looks nearly identical to the previous Kia Sportage model

Ahh I see it has the modern design traits of sticking a couple of tablets on the dash with no integration whatsoever. Ugly and lazy.

Oh and so I need to look all the way down to the centre console to adjust HVAC and cruise control!. How do the car designers think this is safe?

Saw them close up today. They look amazing.

Lefty Boomer2:22 pm 19 Nov 23

Exciting times, EVs won’t replace ICE for a long time yet although I’m an EV owner. The best bit is being part of a period of development and innovation that is shared experiences. Power and performance of EVs is breathtaking, my MG4 has the same power as my old Hilux and while the torque is less, it kicks in from the get-go.

Looks OK but the elephant in room continues to be the battery technology, the lack of range compared to an ICE (of any description) and the absolute fact these EV’s are only suitable for urban areas like Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Geelong etc etc and totally useless for anywhere else in Australia.

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