One Finite Planet

BYD Atto 3 / Yuan Plus: Affordable EV, not just a rich man’s toy.

Table of Contents

There was time when mobile phones where just rich man's toys. The BYD Atto 3 or Yuan Plus depending on the market, is not only BYDs first global car, but also what I would call the first mainstream, affordable EV for the west, ending the EV as rich man's toy. It is being released in several countries in early 2022, mainly left traffic countries (wheel on the right) including Australia, but will go global. The Atto 3 competes on price, size and features with affordable gasoline/petrol compact SUVs. The Atto 3 is not a car priced as a BYD competitor for the regular Toyota Corolla, as that car, the Atto 2 will follow in Australia late 2022 or early 2023.

The Atto 2 and Atto 3 will change the EV market, as what is the only EV brand in race with Tesla for worlds largest EV maker branches from only being known globally for busses, trucks and batteries, onto the consumer car market.

BYD?

This is an EV company that people who do not follow EVs may not have heard of before, but BYD are racing with Tesla to be worlds leading EV producer.

Some bullet points:

  • 4th 3rd most valuable automobile maker in the world, behind only Tesla, Toyota and VW.
  • Have been producing electric vehicles since 2008.
  • 4th3rd largest battery maker in the world, behind CATL, and LG Chem and Panasonic.
  • BYD batteries are in phones including iPhones, and their electric busses are already worldwide.
  • Warren Buffet Berkshire Hathaway group as significant shareholder.

For worlds largest automobile company by 2030, some predict Tesla, others that it will still be Toyota, and I am not alone in predicting BYD will be the largest, and they have had that plan since 2010.

Atto 3 Market Impact.

Markets: Where will the Yuan Plus/ Atto 3 be Available?

So far (April 2022) the BYD Yuan Plus / Atto 3 has been announced in:

Of these, left traffic (RHD) countries are:

  • Australia Macau Nepal Singapore

It seems curious so many left traffic (RHD markets) at this time. Macau, Singapore and Nepal will receive the Atto 3 at a similar time. Yet, Thailand, another left traffic country that is even getting its own BYD factory, is starting with the Atto 2, with the Atto 3 to follow later.

With an availability of 1,500 cars per month, although for larger countries this sounds a small number, it will be a very significant performance relative to numbers in Australia.

Yes, the MG ZS EV broke into this price point in late 2020, but for perspective, the MG sold 1,300 units in 2021, while the Atto 3 is selling on pre-orders at 10x that rate over its 1st quarter, and if the level is maintained could, over the next year, outsell the Tesla model 3, which as one car represented 70% of the EV market for Australia in 2021. Even though Australia is very early on EV adoption, taking 1st place from Tesla in a western market would be a huge PR win.

Why Australia and A Strange Mix Other Markets?

The choice of markets could be a well thought out deliberate strategy, or it could just be the way things worked out. However, Australia is a market where with the right local sales effort, BYD could challenge and even surpass Tesla quickly. Australia is an EV market currently dominated by Tesla, but where low market penetration of EVs means BYD could potentially become #1 EV brand nationally within 12 months.

Last year(2021), in Australia, Tesla sold over 12,000 vehicles in 2021, while all other brands sold a total of 5,149. The Atto 3 has a sales target of 18,000 vehicles per year (1,500 peer month), and with other BYD models to soon launch, passing a even growing level Tesla of sales is feasible within 12 months.

Looking at the sales data for Germany from April, only one car exceeded 1,500 sales in a market over 3x larger than Australia. Tesla shipments don’t tend to arrive in April, so this is sales data for “the rest”, but 1,500 per month in the smaller Australian market would be impressive.

Sales data for the Q3 2022, the first quarter of deliveries, suggests more sales in just one quarter than any EV for the full year of 2021, other than the Tesla model 3, and this is before anyone has even seen an Australian spec car, let alone had a chance to test drive. In 2021, EVs represented approximately 17,200 units of the just over 1 million case sold, or 1.7% of the market. BYD alone could take that close to 2.3% with just 6 months of sales in 2022, and by December 2022, the share of EV sales will have tripled the annual 2021 rate, and be at over 5%. Still one of the lowest in the world, and for Australia, it will be 2023 that is the breakthrough year.

Price?

Australia.

The Atto 3 is priced at around $45,000 AUD (48,000 AUD for long range), which means very little if you are not in Australia, so here is how this price is relative to other cars in Australia. Find prices of these cars in your market provide a guide on Atto 3 pricing.

The most comparable Kia, the Kia e-Niro similar with range to the long range Atto 3, is over A$65,000, and this is the 2021 model e-Niro, with the 2022 price not yet listed. The Atto 3 price is around $17,000 less or 3/4 (75%) of the price for a e-Niro with similar range, and instead between the price of the Niro hybrid and plug-in hybrids, but with more standard equipment than either. As the USA price of the newer 2023 model e-Niro in the US is $39,990, you could expect the Atto 3 if offered in the USA to sell for under USD $30,000.

Review of budget ‘Atto 2’ model.

As another comparison, the the ‘BMW Mini EV’ starts at under US$30,000 in the US before tax credits, but is over $60,000 Australian dollars in Australia.

The Atto 2, (or EA1 / Dolphin) an EV that can compete with the Toyota Corolla, is expected in Australia around year end with pricing to be the equivalent of, or under, the price of cars priced at $20,000 in the USA.

Other than a lack of used cars, this is the price point needed for EVs.

Details: No just a low cost “Chinese Car”?

Road Test.

To be added May/June 2022, I have embedded ‘preliminary’ reviews by others below, but have inspected a preview sample car, but not driven one at this time.

Quality.

When the first Japanese cars reached world markets, they were considered inferior to established brands, but quickly transitioned to become high quality products, matching the quality of the German cars. After some time, prestige (e.g Lexus) Japanese cars even matched the luxury and materials of prestige German cars.

When the first Korean cars arrived internationally, it was the same. First they sold on price, then they matched the quality.

High quality products can be made in China. For example iPhones. But there are many others. However, lower quality products can also be made in China on a budget.

Chinese made cars are a mixture. There are Chinese made cars by Tesla, BMW, Volvo and Polestar that match the quality of the cars made in the USA, Germany or Sweden. But then there are Chinese brands that were at one time simply low cost cars, with early models not scoring well on safely, and although things have improved, many of these are still not up to full international standard.

The first Teslas made in China are regarded as the equal of the latest made in Fremont cars, and better than those made in Fremont only two years ago.

BYD has been making cars in China since 2003, and producing EVs since 2008.

From my own observations, the BYD Atto 3 seems to have build quality at least on par with Tesla, if not above, and equipment levels and materials of the Atto 3 seem impressive, but I have only inspected sample cars from China at this time that are not final international production versions, specifically testing for the points picked up in the R Symons videos, and based on these tests, so far build quality is higher than Tesla. Standby for more to follow.

Quirks.

Even in the Chinese market, BYD can be perceived a ‘quirky’, and the Atto 3 / Yuan plus with its ‘strings’ and fitness theme and interior door handles fits that image.

There are also strange quirks for a ‘premium’ equipment level:

  • No rain sensing wipers. The lowest priced Hyundai in Australia gets panned for not having rain sensing wipers, and it is a car at half the price. This is significant convenience that add little to production costs.
  • No driver attention monitoring. There is no camera, but the car can detect driver attention through the steering wheel, which may be sufficient for driver assist technology.
  • Single zone climate. I do not think a significant issue in practice, but most cars have dual zone, although not necessarily delivering much real difference between zones.
  • No seat heaters, which is acceptable for Australia, but MG (SAIC), discovered this was a barrier to sales in some countries, and is regarded as feature more important in EVs due to the efficiency over cabin heating.
  • No ‘frunk’, even though there is sufficient space for a ‘frunk’ that could be used to stow charge cables.

Although the image to the left does not really show it clearly, there is more than adequate room under the bonnet/hood for an area to have a ‘frunk’ large enough to store charging cables. The area is interrupted by two supports that run from front to rear of the ‘engine’ space, but even between these there is sufficient space to store cables. The space is not large enough for significant luggage to be stored, keeping charging cables in a location other than under the luggage is one key use of a ‘frunk’.

The good news is that other features lacking at this time, such as auto parking and road sign recognition could come though OTA updates.

I will in the next few days again inspect sample cars. As soon as road tests are available, I will update further.

Blade Battery: LFP (Lithium iron phosphate).

The Battery Of the Future?

BYDs have the blade battery which is LFP. Those who really know EVs notice the difference. In summary, if the car is not too heavy and the battery size is not smaller due to be being LFP, then there are benefits to an LFP battery.

LFP battery technology is also now available in some Teslas, making Elon Musks ‘battery of the future’ available today. BYD did have them first, and has all those cool videos of nails through batteries and torture test demonstrating how they don’t catch fire like other batteries. So they are 1) Safer, 2) they also last longer, and most importantly to the average owner, 3) they have better charging curves.

But LFP batteries also have 3 disadvantages: 1) they weight more, 2) they require more space, and 3) they perform poorly if they are too cold. The blade battery overcomes the weight and size, and the heat pump overcomes the cold., so the fuss about Blade Batteries is they have the advantages without the disadvantages.

So What Is All The Fuss?

According to the review quoted below, there is an incredible amount of hype over the blade battery, but the reviewer is a motoring journalist, rather than an EV specialist, and misses the difference.

All of that is probably not important to you, but it’s basically not the messiah. In practice, you won’t notice much difference between this and batteries of another type. It’s not like it’s a quarter of the size or costs ten cents to make or has more energy storage than a nuclear reactor.

“Wheels” review.

Given that other than faulty batteries, EVs are even less affected by fires than internal combustion vehicles, so what?

The real differences: longer real range from same size battery, and faster charging for charge rate!

Until you live with an EV, those differences seem to make no sense. However:

  1. With other batteries, batteries should only be 100% charged rarely reducing real range.
  2. Charging speeds are peak speeds, and batteries with the same peak rates do not all charge at the same speed.

This video by Bjørn Nyland, and actually EV specialist from Norway, measuring Teslas LFP against Teslas with other batteries, shows the for the same capacity, the LFP battery charges over 10% more in the same time, and at the limit of recommended charging, has over 10% more range from the battery.

Note, Tesla model as CATL LFP batteries, not BYD batteries.

The Mystery of Charging Speed and 800v: Architecture is not 800v, car is 400v.

The Spec: Less Impressive than the reality.

The “specifications” section of the current page for Australia states 3 phase charging is supported but does not state at what rate, and the brochure states DC fast charging at 70 kW and 80 kW, presumedly respectively for the 50 kWh and 60 kWh batteries. This charging speed is above the current e-Niro (now Niro-EV), or the US Bolt EUV, and matches the MG-ZSEV, but these represent the bottom end of the scale.

The Mystery and 800v.

The underlying e-Platform 3.0 is specifically an 800 v platform. This charge rate would seem to make the Atto 3 the worlds slowest peak charging 800v car by a significant margin. Why? Reasons given for the charge rate so far relate to preserving battery life, but as 400v BYD cars charge at similar rates, and charging at 800v places less load on the battery than at 400v, that does not really explain it.

The latest information I have is that despite the 800v architecture, the Atto 3 currently has a 400v battery, so unless the battery is updated, no further explanation is needed beyond that the 800v claim is an error, and refers to the architecture potential, but now how it is used in this car.

So why a 400v car on an 800v architecture? Most current EV-Supply equipment or “fast chargers” in the real world only supply 400v. Some cars, such as the Hyundai/Kie e-GMP cars, boost 400v supply to 800v, while if the Atto 3 was 800v, it would be possible the Atto 3 simply charges slower on 400v. Will faster charging at 800v chargers be possible in future? It is possible, but cannot be assumed. Further research reveals 800v cars are slow on 400v without a voltage boost converter.

The first series-produced car that has an 800 V battery system is, of course, the Porsche Taycan, and it’s also a versatile one, because it can operate on 400 V. However, if you use 400 V charger, the output is limited to around 50 kW (instead of up to 270 kW at 800 V charger). The higher levels, like 100-150 kW at 400 V can be unlocked by buying an additional package (DC to DC voltage boost converter).

See “Porsche Taycan” in the article: The multi-charging (800V/400 V) system is versatile…

Interesting. Charging 800v cars on 400v can be slow. Even the might Porsche Taycan, charges slower on 400v than the Atto 3.

The most likely reason for a 400v car on an 800v architecture, is that charging an 800v version be even slower on cars not equipped with a step up voltage system prior to 800v chargers being common, creating a big problem for the base models cars.

Atto 3 Battery Specifications.

There are 4 battery packs specified for the Atto 3, as per the sheet to the right. Currently each blade of a BYD blade battery has all internal cells in parallel, resulting 3.2 volts per blade. This means a long range car is rated at 403.2 volts from 126 blades of 150Ah each. The standard range car can be either 371.2 volts using 116 smaller 135 Ah blades, or 332.8 volts using 104 of the 150Ah blades. The 150Ah blades result in 150kWh/kg density batteries, while the 135Ah blades result in 140kWh/kg.

The Reality Of Road Trip Charing Speeds.

Actual charge ‘curve’ at 120 A charge point(purple).

The quoted time to charge at a rapid charger is 45 minutes. I have seen this described in various sources as the time form 10% to 100%, form 20% to 100%, and from 20% to 80%. So which is correct? Quoting charging time for up to 80% is not normal practice for an LFP battery vehicle, but in the absence of further confirmation, best to assume it is for 20% to 80%, although I am reasonably confident this is for from 0 to around 85%, and for a large part of this time, the car charge at 80kW given when charging at an 100kW or above charger. Charging at 80kW delivers 80kWh per hour, providing in theory 140km range per 15 minutes, or 93.3 km range per 10 minutes.

These specs compare well with the 2022 BMW iX xDrive40 which has a similar 425km WLTP range and charging adds range at 95km per 10 minutes.

In theory, a Hyundai E-GMP car (Ioniq-5, Kia EV6), can charge up to 4x faster than the Atto-3, but in practice, the reality is from 2x fast to the same speed, depending on conditions. The 2x faster allows an Ioniq-5 to, under ideal conditions, charge from 10 to 80% in 18 minutes. The long range Ioniq 5 is rated at 451 km WLTP from the 72.6kWh battery, so 10-80% results in 315km and 50.82 kW. Charging 50.82 kWh in 18 mins is charging at 169.4 kW as opposed the the specification of 230kW and mention of 350kW. Still 169.4 kW is the 2x faster than 80kW. However, that time is under ideal conditions, and under less ideal conditions, the Ioniq-5 can be far slower, and averaged 100kW on this test. The Ioniq-5 is quite typical, and is used as an example as it is all about battery chemistry. It does illustrate that specs do not tell the entire story. In the end, particularly if fully charging to 100%, and LFP car can take no longer than another car with double the peak charging speed.

Reality Of Home Charging Speed.

In Australia, at 10 amps, or 2.4kw, regular power socket charging with replace approximately 16 kilometres of range per hour. This mans an overnight charge of 10 hours would replace 160km of range, which for most people, is far more than normal travel distance. If the car can be plugged in where it is normally parked, then no charging equipment is required. Perhaps a spare cable, so the one at the parking location does not need to be carried in the car. Yes, if you arrive home after having driven 400km in a day, and need to drive 400km again tomorrow, overnight charging at home on a regular plug will take too long, but how often does this happen?

For those who can charge at home, but only only once every few days, such a people with multiple cars sharing the one parking space for charging on a rotation basis, 11kw AC three phase charging is supported, which would allow the long range model to be fully charged in under 6 hours “from empty” charge if an type 2 AC charger is installed at home. I would think most people would be either unable to charge at home, or be able to charge each night, but this could be relevant. The other aspect is that it would take up to almost 6 hours to fully charge on ta type 2 public charger.

The Elephant: China.

When Japanese cars first arrived in the UK, and particularly US and Australia, there was the whole WWII legacy to deal with. Korean cars faced a credibility hurdle, but not the same cultural barriers.

Modern China brings a whole new level of cultural barriers. BYD is not state owned, and even has prominent US based investors, but it is at least so far, not a global company by any means. I will explore this aspect further in a dedicated page.

Specifications And Competition.

Factory Specifications.

Over all the are currently two battery sizes, and three equipment levels:

In the factory specification, the ‘ultra’ adds 15.4 screen up from 12.4, 3 radar sensors up from 1, automated parking, and power tailgate. However, there is little evidence any 15.4″ screens have shipped yet, and the software for automated parking may not yet be ready.

Specifications and Equipment: Australia ‘Superior is not quite ‘ultra’.

At first, it seems the Australian ‘Superior’ specification seems to get the power tailgate from ‘ultra’, but otherwise follow the lesser ‘pro’ spec.

Despite claims the Australian car is already at “full spec”, it omits the larger screen, and has been stated to come without autonomous parking. Whether it also omits traffic sign recognition is unclear.

Looking further, perhaps the ‘full spec’ claim is quite accurate, as it is possible that none of the ‘missing’ features are yet shipping, which would make the cars ‘full spec’ in terms of what is available. While it has been said that automatic parking is not available, the sample cars and brochure pictures

For the 360° camera, it Luke Todd has stated “you can even see underneath the vehicle“, but at least on the sample cars, this does not seem possible, but the 360° camera system is quite good.

Tyres.

Australian reviews of the Attos3 were conducted using the Chaoyang tires, but actual cars will for now at least, get a 215/55R18 “Atlas” tire by Shandong Linglong. There are reports that with a same diameter Continental 235/50R18 tyre, the 0-100km time drops to 7.0 and the braking distance 100-0 drops from 40.7 metres to 35.8 m which is more significant. The change in tyre width would be expected to decrease range.

OTA – Remote Connection.

Atto 3 models in Australia will come equipped with a SIM from Telstra to connect to the mobile network, and the connection and OTA software updates are included in price.

Another source of information on specifications.

Full feature list, ‘pros’ and ‘cons’.

  • Key / Impressive Features.
    • Full radar cruise control with lane keeping.
    • Heat Pump.
    • lane tracking and collision avoidance including pedestrians and cyclists
    • blind spot and rear cross traffic detection and warnings.
    • Led headlights with auto high/low beam
    • Keyless entry and go.
    • Full surround camera system including under car and recordable ‘dash cam’
    • Sun roof
    • Power Tailgate.
    • V2L.
    • Front and Rear park sensors (12 in total).
    • Wireless phone charging.
    • OTA software updates and full remote connectivity via app.
    • Tire pressure monitoring.
    • High Quality (PM2.5) Cabin Air Filtration.
  • Missing Useful Features. (Unimpressive)
    • No rain sensing wipers.
    • No driver fatigue detection.
    • Single zone climate control.
    • No traffic sign recognition.
    • No seat heating, or seat ventilation.
    • Although Electric Front Seats, But No Memory and only 4 way power for passenger.
    • No one pedal driving.
  • Other Missing Features (Negatives, but less significant / often options)
    • Park assist currently disabled on Australian cars.
    • Android Auto/ Apple Car play delayed until October.
    • Low quality tires fitted in Australia.
    • No regen paddles.
    • No LED matrix or turn following.
    • No kick sensor (or other truck/boot hands free opening).
    • No USB-C
    • Although V2L, no internal socket.

The Competition.

Every review so far puts the Atto 3 at least one class above the only similarly priced EV available in Australia, the MG ZS EV. However, as the MG ZS is around 33% more expensive than its non-EV equivalent, it is clear the MG does not have price parity between EVs and equivalent traditional cars, while the target here is to compare the Atto 3 with equivalently priced gasoline/petrol cars. Not only is the ZS EV one size smaller, it is lacking, performance, equipment and build quality in comparison with the Atto 3.

The Kia Niro is instead the comparison vehicle, and it matches far more closely in price, performance and equipment. Plus, given the Niro is available in more markets. I am also comparing the Mercedes B-Class, and Mercedes EQA 250, and even though these would not be considered competitors, I still think the comparisons will be interesting.

Atto 3 / BYD Australia Events Log.

At this time, pending events are:

  • First production shipment (April build / July Delivery) shipping announced.
  • ANCAP safety rating and Australian compliance to be confirmed.

Comparisons.

Comparison Table.

I have not listed the MG yet as I feel it is not really comparable, but although these are the cars it is has interested me to compare, it is not the same list others would add.

carBYD Atto 3B 200 CDI Class W246EQA 250Lexus UX300eNiro EV (2022)
length4455435944904420
width18751786 (no mirror)18401825
height1615155715451545
wheelbase2720269926402720
Ground Clearance175
weight17501475
Luggage440488414475
Frunk20
seats down13401547
kW150100140150150
Nm310300375300
0-100(sec)7.28.97.5
Range?(WLTP)420900426305463
Charge rate8010050?
Battery6054.364.8
price k (before on)4874

Vs Kia Niro Hybrid / e-Niro.

Niro Hybrid.

Features of Hybrid (Sport model to provide closest equipment match)

  • Base Model
    • Regenerative braking
    • LED daytime running lights (DRL)
    • Bluetooth[B] multi-connection
    • Android Auto[A] & Apple CarPlay[C]
    • AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) with FCWS (Forward Collision Warning System) – Car, Pedestrian, Cyclist
    • Lane Keep Assist (LKA)*
    • Lane Follow Assist (LFA)*
    • Driver Attention Alert+ (DAA+) with Lead Vehicle Departure Alert*
    • Dual zone climate control
    • Temporary spare wheel
  • Sport adds
    • LED headlights
    • 18″ alloy wheels & Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres
    • 10.25″ touchscreen with satellite navigation
    • Paddle shifters
    • Premium seats
    • Alloy sports pedals
    • Blind Spot Detection (BSD)*
    • Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA)*

Overall, the Niro Hybrid Sport has the following that the BYD is missing:

  • Rain sensing wipers.
  • Driver attention warning.
  • A temporary spare wheel.
  • Dual zone climate control.

But, relative to the BYD Atto 3, the Hybrid Sport still lacks:

  • Panoramic Sun / Moon Roof
  • Power Tailgate.
  • Surround Cameras.
  • Power Seats.
  • Keyless / Mobile Phone activated Entry.
  • Front park sensors.
  • Wireless Phone Charing (expected n updated model)

E-Niro (Again, sport to match equipment levels).

The e-Niro Adds:

  • Power driver seat (not passenger)

And as an EV, compared to the BYD Atto 3, despite the higher price lacks:

  • Heat pump.
  • LFP Battery.
  • 18″ wheels (EV has 17&, unlike the hybrid sport which has 18″)
  • Panoramic Sun / Moon Roof
  • Surround Camera. (perhaps new model)
  • Power Tailgate.
  • Power Seats.
  • Keyless / Mobile Phone activated Entry.
  • Front park sensors.
  • Wireless Phone Charing (expected in updated model)
  • V2L (expected in updated model)

Vs Mercedes B200 CDI

Why Compare To The Mercedes B Class?

This comparison is because the plan is to use the Atto 3 in the role previously tackled by the a Mercedes B-Class, and the two vehicles are remarkably similar in dimensions. The B-Class is older, and cars have progressed, but it will still be interesting to see how well the new Atto 3 compares to the older Mercedes B-Class.

Equipment.

B200 has sun/moon roof. Adaptive cruise, blind spot monitor, lane departure warning, forward collision prevention, large display, sat nav with traffic, tyre pressure monitor,

What is missing on the Atto 3?

  • Seat heaters? (not on current model- but ventilated?)
  • Parking sensors?
  • Smart Park?
  • Seat Memory, Lumbar adjustment, height adjustment for passenger seat.
  • Auto wipers/lights?

What is missing on the B Class and is an upgrade?

  • Surround camera (even underneath?!)
  • Lane keep assist (B has only monitoring)
  • Electric tailgate
  • Keyless entry & Start.
  • Video recorder (when parked?)
  • Wireless charge
  • V2L
  • OTA

Atto 3 Videos and Reviews. (To be updated.)

Actual test drives.

Wheels test drive.
drive.com.au test drive.

Interview with head of Aust. Importer.
Australian launch
Chinese car reviewed on Thai channel.

More links:

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