28 November 2023

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

| James Coleman
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The BYD Dolphin is available as two models – Dynamic and Premium. Photo: James Coleman.

We’ve covered the third cheapest electric vehicle (EV) in Australia. Then the second cheapest. But now the time is truly here.

The BYD Dolphin is officially the most affordable new EV in the country. By $100.

I’ll show you my workings: the MG4 starts at $38,990 in base ‘Excite’ spec, while the base BYD Dolphin Dynamic starts at $38,890.

So will all those who initially baulked at the former now come flocking for the latter? Yeah, probably not.

The MG4 is very good – the best MG ever made since the Chinese took over in 2007 and promptly lost the book How to Make an MG. So here’s the real question: Is the BYD just as good?

It didn’t take us long to understand the new MG era, but it seems from my early-morning photo shoot on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin that many people have yet to hear of BYD.

The fact of the matter is they’ve been making batteries for nigh on 30 years – including for the indestructible Nokia bricks – and experimenting with wrapping them in the bodies of cars, buses, coaches, forklifts and SkyRail trains.

They only changed tack due to COVID-19 in 2021, when they became the world’s largest supplier of face masks within a month.

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In other words, despite the fact the acronym stupidly stands for ‘Build Your Dreams’, BYD means serious business.

Last year, they decided the time was right to share their EV efforts with the world, and we received the Atto 3 SUV. This has become the third best-selling EV in Australia, after the Tesla Model Y and Model 3.

Unlike the Tesla twins, however, the battery will not burst into flames if you happen to be involved in a prang. We know this because BYD kindly volunteered to fire nails into one of theirs to see what happened.

Needs ironing. Photo: James Coleman.

“During the Nail Penetration Test, the Blade Battery gave off no smoke or fire and the surface temperature only reached 30 to 60 degrees Celsius,” the BYD website reads.

“It also withstood other extreme test conditions, such as being crushed, bent, heated in an oven to 300 degrees Celsius and overloaded by 260 per cent. None of these resulted in a fire or explosion.”

I feel very warmly towards cars that won’t sprinkle pieces of me into heaven, so we’re off to a good start with the Dolphin.

On the outside, it’s a futuristic thing to look at, with sharp rear-light graphics that will have you gazing at its bottom in the dark for hours like it was Skyfire. On my Premium model, there is also two-tone paint, and a detail I admired – the main body colour appears in the wheels.

Getting into the Atto 3 felt like you’d entered another dimension – such was the daring design – but at least in my Dolphin, this has been toned down with a lot of black. That said, there is a pink model with a vivid Barbie interior, but I decided not to ask the dealership for that one.

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Aside from the door handles that bring to mind toe-nail clippings, everything else feels very nice, with plush leathers and sturdy plastics.

But the two screens are mildly confusing, and for the life of me, I couldn’t get my phone to play through the speakers.

I do know the speakers work, however, because there would be a series of chimes whenever I exceeded the speed limit – which is quite easy to do.

Not to sound like Supercar Blondie, but “check out these cool lights”. Photo: James Coleman.

Take-off is very similar to the internal combustion engine experience, and even in its most ‘on’ setting, it’s hard to notice the regenerative braking is there at all. But put it in ‘Sport’ and your foot into it, and the 150 kW electric motor will send you from 0-100 km/h in 7 seconds.

Much like the MG, it’s a bloated hatchback that can struggle with its 1658 kg weight in the corners, but all things considered, it still handles far more competently than an ICE-powered equivalent would.

The controls are also a little blunter than the MG, but there’s always the consolation that if you do happen to come unstuck and hit a tree, you won’t blow up.

The running gear in the Dolphin Premium is the same as that in the Atto 3. Photo: James Coleman.

2023 BYD Dolphin Premium

  • $44,890
  • 60.48 kWh battery and electric motor, 150 kW / 310 Nm
  • 427 km estimated range
  • 0-100 km/h in 7 seconds
  • 1658 kg kerb weight
  • 5-star ANCAP safety rating
  • 6-year, 150,000 km warranty (8-year, 160,000 km battery warranty)

This car was provided for testing by the BYD Experience Centre, Gungahlin. Visit BYD for more information.

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Wouldn’t buy a Chinese car anyway after they treated our beef, wine, maize and lobster exports. Apart from that, according to a recent media story, Electric cars lose more value than petrol, diesel, or hybrid models in their first five years on the road, according to a new study from the USA. A study of 1.1 million cars sold between November 2022 and October 2023 by iSeeCars revealed the average electric car depreciates by 49.1 per cent in the first five years on sale, compared to the market average of 38.8 per cent.

This will be a pass. The hassle of limited travel distance, charging stations not working or waiting in line to charge, extended travel times due to frequent charging, the stress of the possibility of the EV self igniting and burning down my house or shed, higher insurance costs EV’s. This sounds more trouble than it is worth.

I’m sure it’s the future but until I can drive wherever I like and “refuel” in a normal amount of time, it’s impractical to me. I can only imagine the wait time travelling from Canberra to anywhere over Christmas.

You’ll be fine Canberra to anywhere (within 200km). Getting back will be the problem.

Capital Retro4:15 pm 13 Nov 23

Lord Nuffield must have turned over in his grave when the Chinese bought MG. The initials then stood for “Morris Garages”.

Maybe now, MG means “Multi Gender” and that’s why it’s a leading seller in Canberra.

It’s amazing just how many “old auto brands” are now owned by China.


The Best of British combined with Chinese quality – what could go wrong?

Capital Retro10:52 am 18 Nov 23

The (sub-continent) Indians did a good job of copying the Austin A-30 and other post war British models. A lot are still going. Very few of the early Chinese copies of British/Euro cars still motoring around however..

pink little birdie11:27 am 13 Nov 23

Why isn’t there an option to check the number of seats when buying a car. It never seems to be included in the filter by section of buying a car?
I’m not a car person and it’s the first thing I try to filter by

Stephen Bradshaw12:47 am 13 Nov 23

EV’s especially Tesla don’t catch fire. Get the facts, call yourself a journalist ..https://rbm.umicore.com/en/newsroom/debunking-myths-about-batteries-electro-mobility/electro-mobility-myth-7/. Range I just plug it in every day cost me nothing to run. Keep sniffing those fumes boys

Capital Retro4:57 pm 13 Nov 23

Umicore couldn’t exist without taxpayer subsidies. The Canadian recently gave them $1bn to build a battery factory in Ontario.

And did someone mention a fire?:


Lmfao how do you explain the Plano TX fire while the car model X sat in the garage charging?
Care to explain the model Y’s that caught fire simultaneously in France and turkey? And don’t get me started on the tesla that was backing up a boat into a lake. Keep dreaming Stephanie

Lefty Boomer8:52 pm 12 Nov 23

I’ve got the MG4, couldn’t be happier. Best drive I’ve had, most fun in 50 years of driving.

Nope, I give it the bird.
EVs are impractical until: (1) EVs take less time to recharge than the five minutes it now takes to refuel a petrol engine; (2) EV prices come down to match petrol vehicles; (3) charging stations are as convenient and operationally reliable as petrol bowsers; (4) there are no longer queues for charging stations (5) range doesn’t create anxiety; and (6) no chance the battery overheats, catches alight or will “sprinkle pieces of me into heaven”.
Ultra-Rapid chargers are capable of adding 400km of range to a modern EV in 15 minutes. ‘Fast’ and ‘Standard’ chargers charge at a much slower rate. Charging at home is very slow – all night.

So many people here seem to think they can live their life exactly as it was before we arrived at the brink of Climate catastrophe. Get over it, lots worse things than waiting a few minutes to charge your car are barrelling down the highway at you!

GrumpyGrandpa5:10 pm 15 Nov 23

Hi John,
I’m sorry to inform you of the inconvenient truth that buying an EV won’t save the planet.

Even the ACCC have warned against the enviromental claims attributed to EVs.

The problem of course is that EVs have a heavy upfront carbon cost; some 70% higher than an equivalent ICE. EVs can eventually become carbon-neutral and even operate carbon-free, post manufacturing, subject to their power source being carbon-free. (Currently 60% of Australia’s electricity is coal powered).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-EV. I’m definitely not a petrol-head either. Lithium EVs, Hydrogen, future solid state batteries and so on, all have their place, but it’s futile to think that buying an EV will make one iota of any difference, when we are still burning coal, when China is still building coal fired power stations etc.

Driving an EV will do nothing, when we are deforresting our rain-forrests etc.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to drive my old ICE. I drive 5,000-8,000 km per year. The carbon-cost in it’s manufacturing has already been paid. Environmentally, it’s more sound for me and I expect most Australians
to burn petrol to power it, than to pay the large upfront carbon-cost to but a new EV thinking that one day in the distant future, my car might become carbon-neutral.

It doesn’t even have a spare wheel, just a tyre repair kit.

When is the last time you changed a wheel? I’m averaging once in 10 years.

And fortunately you had a spare wheel with you to change.

Vinfast has an option for a spare. They have the space for it in the back

Capital Retro3:19 pm 12 Nov 23

No and No.

It doesn’t get any easier than that.

1658 kg kerb weight for a small car is ridiculous. This ICE technology runs rings around any EV and it’s fuel tank capacity is 10 litres with a range of over 300 miles (not km). It’s a case of what could have been if mass produced to reduce costs:

Rob McGuigan12:58 pm 12 Nov 23

Interesting facts, and they are facts not debating points regarding ALL EV’s.
1. The quoted range of ALL EV’s is always quoted with a single driver and NOT otherwise loaded with luggage or multiple passengers. The claimed range decreases by up to 50% with passengers and/or moderate luggage on-board.
2. Californian insurance companies are charging higher household insurance premiums for policy holders that have adjoining garaged EV’s on their property. The reason is EV’s can and do suffer thermal runaway with the battery and when that happens it burns the entire property to the ground in most instances.
3. Try travelling from Melbourne to Sydney with an EV. There are already substantial queues for accessibility of charging stations along the Hume Highway unless you travel at weird times. Then you wait for a fast charge up to 2.5 to 3 hours and you must not sit in your magnificent planet saving EV while you charge it, that’s illegal in every state. Again, because they can and do explode without cause or reason.
Yes, a truly magnificent answer to the internal combustion engine…..NOT!!

Retep Enivri6:22 am 13 Nov 23

Or as they said in the early 20th century, they’ll never replace the horse, you know.

Capital Retro8:40 am 15 Nov 23

Horses are still being used in Gaza.

Here’s what I think about EV’s: We are at the front end of development of alternative vehicles, they are no-where near developed enough to replace what I have and have come to need, they are making a few people very rich, I don’t need to make a decision now!

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