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Images courtesy of BYD Japan


BYD’s Move To Enter The Japanese Passenger Vehicle Market Is Good For Africa

BYD has announced that it will start sales of passenger electric vehicles in Japan starting in January 2023. Initially, three of BYD’s latest models will be offered in Japan, starting with the ATTO 3 in January. This will be followed by the Dolphin and Seal, which will be available for purchase in the middle and second half of 2023, respectively.

General Manager of BYD Asia-Pacific Auto Sales Division Liu Xueliang unveiled BYD’s slogan for the market — “Hello e-life.” “Starting from today, BYD will, together with Japanese dealers and partners from all walks of life, launch electric vehicle products suitable for people in Japan,” Liu said. “With a goal of “e-travel for everyone” and a slogan of ‘Hello, e-Life’, we are committed to achieving low-carbon lifestyle in Japan.”

BYD Chairman and President Wang Chuanfu said, “Over the years, BYD has been deeply engaged in the Japanese market and has accumulated a good market and brand foundation through its pure electric buses, energy storage systems, pure electric forklifts and other businesses,” Wang said. “Today, with the support and expectation of consumers, BYD officially hits the new energy passenger vehicle market in Japan. The longest journey starts with a single step, and we greatly cherish this business opportunity. Full of respect and dedication, we are devoted to providing Japanese consumers with leading technologies, excellent products and high-quality services, aiming to deliver an exceptional travel experience.”

Here is a summary of the specs of the models:

  1. The BYD Dolphin

70 kW and 180 Nm of torque motor

Max speed of  150 km/h

BYD Blade Battery (LFP (LiFePO4) capacity 30.72 kWh)

Range of roughly 225 km (WLTP)

On-board charger:  AC 7 kW

DC Fast charging: 40 kW

The Dolphin also has a model with a larger 44.9 kWh battery and upgraded DC fast charging up to 60 kW.

  1. The BYD Yuan Plus (known as the ATTO 3 in International markets such as Japan, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand)

150 kW and 310 N.m of torque motor

Max speed of 160 km/h

BYD Blade Battery with a capacity of 50.12 kWh (LFP)

Range of 320 km (WLTP)

The ATTO 3 also has a long range version with a 60.48 kWh battery.

  1. The highly anticipated BYD Seal Sedan (Standard Range Version)

150 kW and 310 Nm motor

Acceleration: From  0 to 100 km/h in 7.5 seconds

Battery capacity 61.44 kWh

Range: of about 430 km (WLTP)

The BYD Seal also has a long range version (82.56 kWh battery):

230 kW and 360 Nm motor

Acceleration: From 0 to 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds

As well as an all-wheel drive Performance version

390 kW and 670 Nm motors

Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds

Battery capacity 82.56 kWh

The Japanese market essentially determines the direction of the vehicle sector in Africa’s right-hand drive markets. This is because over 90% of the vehicles in these markets (excluding South Africa) are used vehicles imported from Japan. Most people are not able to afford a brand new $30,000 to $40,000 vehicle due to several reasons. These include the fact that that majority of people in these developing markets have lower incomes than people in developed nations, as well as the absence of affordable vehicle financing. The majority of the car buying population buy 8-year-old cars either online from Japanese dealers or from local car dealers who would have imported them from Japan. These used cars could be older than 8 years depending on the import rules of the country. The popular cars in this range include the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, and Mazda CX 5. These vehicles will retail locally from about $8,000 to about $20,000 depending on the age, condition, and mileage, allowing more people to afford to buy ca car.

Over the past decade, Japanese automakers have focused more on plug-less hybrids instead of battery-electric vehicles. Because the supply chain from Japan is well established, these plug-less hybrids are now also finding their way to these African markets in huge numbers. Many people are looking for more fuel efficient vehicles as the high costs of petrol start to strain their budgets. The Honda Fit hybrid and the Toyota Aqua hybrid are now some of the models you can see everywhere on the streets of cities like Harare. For enthusiast and early EV adopters, the first generation Nissan Leaf is also basically the only vehicle in right-hand drive that they can get easy access to. The first gen Nissan Leaf’s battery pack does not have an active thermal management system. Therefore, this is not an ideal vehicle for these markets due to issues with accelerated battery degradation in hot environments.

Japanese automakers’ focus on plug-less hybrids as well as the slow sales of full battery-electric vehicles in Japan mean that there has not been a good selection of used battery-electric vehicles for people in these African markets to buy. There is a ray of hope now, as from 2021, the sales of battery-electric vehicles started to pick up in Japan. About 20,000 new EVs were sold in Japan sold in 2021, including 8,600 imported electric vehicles. The 8,600 imported electric vehicles were about three times higher than the previous year, showing significant growth. BYD’s entry into the Japanese market in January of next year will help supercharge this market. The BYD Dolphin is in a vehicle segment similar to the popular Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris. The BYD Dolphin starts from about $15,000 in China. The pricing for the Japanese market will probably be much higher than this.

This does give us some hope that in the next 4 to 5 years, some of these will end up on the used car market and find their way to right-hand drive markets in Africa. I drive a 2013 Nissan Leaf in Zimbabwe which I bought on these platforms that supply used Japanese vehicles in 2020. When I ordered the car, it was 7 years old and it was more affordable for me to buy it at that time than to get it brand new for over $35,000 before import duties. In a few years from now, these BYD Dolphins could start to arrive as used vehicles at prices would-be buyers here can now afford.

We need all available channels to help accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles. Leveraging the existing used vehicle market ecosystem to bring EVs to these markets will be one of the key pathways to achieve this.

Images courtesy of BYD Japan

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