Rising Tesla rival BYD a 'big win' for Aussies in electric car transition

Electric vehicles might benefit the environment, but historically haven't come cheap. That's all starting to change.

A BYD model seen on the streets of Sydney, as the Chinese manufacturer soars in popularity.
BYDs are soaring in popularity in Australia, which is a good thing according to one of the country's leading transport experts. Source: Reuters

China's emerging ascendency in the electric vehicle sector will be a good thing for both Australian consumers and the environment, one of the country's leading transport experts insists. As "more affordable and reliable" models are imported Down Under, we're set to see EV numbers continue to skyrocket on our roads.

Professor of Future Urban Mobility, Hussein Dia, said China’s "dominance of the EV market is not a coincidence" but instead "a result of a targeted strategy that built on their strength in advanced battery technologies" over the past two decades and their partnerships with leading car manufacturers.

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Dia said Aussies are already buying Chinese EVs in record numbers — and this is only the beginning. "A couple of years back, you couldn't find a new EV for less than $45,000 ... We now have vehicles selling for around $36,000."

A BYD model seen on the streets of Mascot in Sydney, as the Chinese manufacturer soars in popularity. A second image is overlaid showing a BYD in a showroom.
BYD was the highest selling EV manufacturer for the month of January, overtaking tech juggernaut Tesla. Source: Yahoo/Supplied

"Now, I think this is still expensive for a lot of people, and we still need more options, but in my opinion, more variety at lower costs is a good thing for consumers.

"People who drive electric vehicles, most of them say 'there is no going back' because it's so different, in a good way. Particularly when it comes to the technology inside and the energy management systems. And Chinese vehicles are no different."

On Thursday, The European Commission said it would impose extra taxes of up to 38.1 per cent on imported Chinese electric cars from July, which Dia explained was an attempt to "protect their local interests". He said that while the tariffs seem steep, they're unlikely to deter China overall and, are reflective of the fact that Chinese models, namely Build Your Dreams (BYD), "are really making a dent in the market".

It comes just months after the United States quadrupled its tariff on Chinese-made electric vehicles

Such a dent is evident here in Australia, where in BYD is soaring in popularity. Elon Musk's Tesla and BYD account for three-quarters of all EV sales in the country, with the latter even overtaking Tesla in January as the nation's best-selling electric vehicle for that month.

Since then, it's continued to rise in popularity, with motorists even spotting taxi drivers now sporting BYDs on Australian roads.

A BYD taxi was snapped up in Adelaide, with the manufacturing soaring in popularity in Australia this year.
A BYD taxi was snapped up earlier this year in Adelaide. Source: Facebook

According to a recent report by Deloitte and the Motor Trades Association of Australia, it's been projected that up to 85 per cent of vehicles on our roads will be EVs within the next 40 years. The demand for skilled professionals to repair these vehicles is also increasing, as one small business mechanic explained to Yahoo on Wednesday.

The esteemed Canberra-based mechanic Raffy Sgroi is fully behind the EV movement, however she claims Australians must be better educated before the rollout expands further and highlighted the lack of trained professionals to service the needs of EVs, especially when fleets begin to age.

She said there are a number of safety risks involved that consumers, and mechanics, should be aware of prior to purchase — and Dia agrees. "I totally support that," Dia said. "She's absolutely right, there are dangers.

"If you're driving on a gravel road and a rock hits the bottom, and though the batteries are very well protected, but there have been incidences where the battery has been punctured — even if it's damaged in any way — that's really dangerous. So the education is very important," he said.

"Though they have really very sophisticated energy management systems, if someone gets a light on the dashboard, it is not like the light we get when you're running low on fuel and you say 'Okay, I can ignore it for another day' — no you can't," he added, as another example.

Overall, while other countries are clamping down on cheaper Chinese-made electric cars, for Aussies hoping to make the switch, the future looks bright.

"The good news is that earlier this year, the government passed the new vehicle emission standards, and there's going to be penalties put on companies that sell a lot of polluting vehicles," Dia said.

"So that's also going to entice even European manufacturers, because at the moment, they're not interested in the Australian market because we don't have an emission standard implemented. Other markets do and if they sell polluting vehicles in those markets, they get penalised."

Now that Australia has a similar standard, "we're not going to be a dumping ground for polluting vehicles" anymore, which "is a good thing", Dia argued – both for our local environment and population.

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