A new electric hatchback starting from just 78,800 yuan ($11,450) from BYD Co. is set to intensify competition in China’s already crowded entry-level car market.
Unveiled at the Shanghai auto show this week, the Seagull drew big crowds with its neon yellow-exterior and budget price tag. The 55-kilowatt motor motor version offers around 190 miles (300 kilometers) of range and a top speed of 80 miles per hour, while the 75kW motor iteration the range up to 250 miles. Features include a 10.1-inch rotating touchscreen, four air bags and bluetooth car keys.BYD $11,450 EV Hatchback Set to Reshape China’s First-Car Market
I think this is a meaningful future-of-the-economy story.
The short version is that BYD is launching a very low priced electric car (CNY 80k, USD 11k) into China. The vehicle would require re-engineering for European markets (due to safety rules) and thus might not be able to be delivered at such low prices into Europe.
I suspect that one of the key – and so far underappreciated – aspects of electric cars is that their electric motors are simpler than internal combustion engines. So far, because of the high cost of batteries, electric vehicles remain more expensive than internal combustion engines.
However, as production scales up, battery prices will fall further, and at some stage, electric cars will become cheaper than petrol cars. When that happens, I think that the whole world will flick across to electric cars very quickly… and the very low price vehicles from BYD (and price drops from Tesla!) are very meaningful events in this broader struggle for the future of automobile brands.
In other words, I think that this will happen slowly at first, but at some stage, it will happen all at once.
Further, since electric motors can be made very small (motorised toothbrushes!) I suspect that one of the under-appreciated aspects of the spread of electric vehicles will be in small vehicles: bicycles, scooters (think electric Vespas), and other motorised vehicles. Those vehicles, possibly akin to high-powered electric golf carts, will be usable for many people commuting and travelling relatively short distances. Big enough to give protection from the weather, small enough to travel easily within towns.
These changes are likely to change how we design our cities – amongst many other things, they are likely to substantially undermine the rationale (let alone desirability) of silly attempts to create ’15 minute cities’ with their unreasonable combativeness towards motors.