BYD is reportedly preparing to set up a new manufacturing plant in Thailand where it will make electric cars for right-hand-drive markets including the UK and Australia.
The news is important for Australia because BYD has signed an exclusive agreement with importer EV Direct to start delivering the Atto 3 electric compact SUV locally from August, 2022. Starting at just under $45,000 driveway, it will be the most affordable electric car in Australia.
And while it is understood that BYD has a dedicated assembly line for the right-hand-drive Atto 3 – a rebadged Yuan Plus – at its China operations with the ability to build 18,000 EVs a year for Australia, a new factory in Thailand could shore up supply should increasing demand require it.
BYD Atto 3. Source: EV Direct
Demand for electric vehicles in Australia has tripled annually over past years with a little more than 20,000 sold in 2021, and if this trend continues, in 2023 there could be demand for as many as 180,000 EVs a year.
With Australia just reaching the start of the adoption curve that is well underway in global markets, this is not necessarily an unlikely scenario, especially if more affordable options are available to drivers.
But affordable EVs are required for this to happen. And a new EV factory in Thailand could be just the ticket (short of local manufacturing base, that is). There are already several auto models made in Thailand for Australia including best-selling utes such as the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux.
However, a spokesperson for EV Direct told The Driven in a note that there are no plans as yet for Thai-made EVs to come to Australia, and that current EV assembly lines are locked in at BYD’s existing facilities in China.
According to the new report, which was broken by Auto Life Thailand, BYD will sign an MOU with the Thai government which has recently implemented measures to help accelerate electric vehicle adoption. In Thailand sales of BYD EVs will be supported by a 150,000 baht discount (about $A6,000).
BYD Dolphin. Source: BYD
BYD Dolphin. Source: BYD
Top of the list for manufacture in Thailand though is not the Atto 3 (Yuan Plus), but the BYD Dolphin, which will compete with the Ora Good Cat, a budget electric hatchback that was snapped up quickly when it went on sale in October last year.
A timeline for launch of the BYD Dolphin – which would likely also adopt its own “Atto plus number” moniker – has not been confirmed for Australia, but there was a left-hand-drive version available for viewing at the recent BYD/EV Direct launching Sydney in February.
It is understood it will target a circa $35,000 price point.
BYD Dolphin prices in Thailand after government discounts are expected to start at just over 700,000 baht, which cheaper than the ORA Good Cat 400 Pro model and equates to about $A28,000 at today’s rates.
The expansion of BYD’s EV arm into the Thai market will be underscored with an investment of over 20,000 million baht ($A800 million) and the BYD brand will be officially launched there in June 2022.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organizer of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.