Last year was the year of the electric SUV in Australia. We had the introduction of the Tesla Model Y, the BYD Atto 3, and the refreshed MG ZS EV. This year is proving to be the year of the electric compact. Three new models are electrifying the streets — the Great Wall ORA, the MG4, and the BYD Dolphin. To make it even more exciting, the Queensland government has doubled its rebate to AU$6000 per car. CleanTechnica has featured the ORA previously here and here.
Matt and Leah recently bought their Great Wall Motors ORA (known globally as an ORA Cat) and shared their story with me this morning. In contrast to experiences I have had, their dealer experience at Pacific GWM seems to have been exemplary. Based in Gympie, but also servicing the Sunshine Coast. They found the dealer principal was knowledgeable about the car and most helpful. This is not always the case when buying an EV from a dealer.
The dealer informed them that demonstrators would be available and there was a white one on the list. Leah was keen to get this car and talked the dealer into selling her the demo model, even before Leah and the dealer had even seen the car. After the initial enquiry, the dealer principal kept them updated with text messages. Then came the frustrating wait as the car took three months to clear customs. Apparently, there was a mismatch on the paperwork — the car was listed as coming with a 10-amp charging plug, but it had a 15 amp plug instead. All was finally resolved with the correct part arriving from China.
Leah still took the ORA for a test drive before she made her final decision. She was the first person to receive an ORA on the Sunshine Coast (100 km north of Brisbane) — fresh off the truck. The ORA has now had its first service after three months of ownership.
Matt spent an hour chatting to the service technician and asking questions. The technician was able to answer Matt’s queries about the way charging activity was displayed by the ORA. It was quite different to what he was used to in his Tesla Model 3. Matt was impressed by his thoroughness, he even provided screenshots from his app. Matt tried to explain the issue: “The in-car display shows the amperage that the car is drawing, but it’s less than what you would expect as a Tesla owner. The M3 is 220-240V at 30A, displayed in the app is 7kW. However the Ora only has a display of 16/17A, no voltage, so would assume it’s only 3.5kW, half the quoted charge rate. Björn Nyland from youtube pointed out that Chinese cars use the battery pack voltage 390-400V not the input of 220V … so is also 7kW and nothing to worry about!” Thanks, Matt!
The ORA also received two updates at the dealership, one for cooling management for the battery and a miscellaneous patch. The dealership staff acknowledge that they are learning and appreciate the feedback from owners about real-world experiences. The technician was using the app for the Ocular charger installed in the workshop. Matt is looking forward to the time when he can access his ORA through an app like he does his Tesla.
Leah bought the ORA as a second car for the family. She says she didn’t want another Tesla, as she finds the Tesla Model 3 too big and it doesn’t have enough visibility. “It meets my needs,” she mentioned frequently about the ORA. Leah and Matt checked out the other two of the triplets, flying down to Sydney for the Fully Charged Show in order to see the MG4. Unfortunately, they were unable to take the car for a test drive. And the BYD Dolphin and ORA were not even there! Fully Charged was hoping to get an ORA trucked up from Melbourne, but it didn’t come through. Apparently, there was only one unit of the car in Australia at the time.
It became a choice between the MG4 and the ORA. Leah decided that the ORA was a really cute, unique car. “You don’t see so many on the road. The MG4 will become the new Tesla!” It helped that she could get her hands on an ORA so quickly (about 2 months before the MG4s started being delivered). At Fully Charged, there were two MG4s on display and they kept thinking that it would be the car they would buy, but the ORA won out on the “cuteness factor.” Leah intends to test drive an MG4 “one weekend when we are bored.”
Leah did the maths and found that the ORA met her needs perfectly. Her standard range ORA has about 310 km of range. She has tested this out at highway and suburban speeds and found it to be quite accurate. The range is plenty to meet her commuting needs for work and shopping on the weekends. “I call it my coffee car — for when we go out for coffee on the weekend. We take the ORA.” On the last shop, they were able to fit 15 Woolies bags in the boot! She tells me she only has to charge once a week from their gen-3 Tesla charger. Matt has tried the car out on a range of destination chargers and high-speed chargers on the Queensland Electric Super Highway.
After the sale of her Suzuki Swift Sports and the Queensland government rebate, the changeover was about AU$22,000. The dealer advised them about the government rebate, but the customer has to make the application. The ORA comes with a 7-year unlimited warranty, capped price servicing for the first 5 services, and a choice of two low-speed noises. Leah tells me that the AU$99 service every 12 months or 15,000 km is a whole lot cheaper than what they used to pay for the Suzuki. As for the AU$6,000 rebate, it arrived in Leah’s bank account within a week!
Leah prefers the visual display in the ORA. She describes it as “one seamless screen across the dash. It is two screens; on one side it displays the car on road; on the other is infotainment. I set the screen to simplistic mode for minimal information, like the speed. Then after a week I set it to the mode where can more information. It helped me transition to the extra technology. The only annoying feature is that I have to set the regen each time I drive.” This sounds to me that it could be fixed with a software update — let’s hope GWM does that.
At the recent Australian Electric Vehicles EV expo in Cleveland, Brisbane, Leah’s ORA was quite the attraction. Majella and I also attended the event but found little interest in our “old” Tesla. The ORA was parked next to a BYD in the pavilion and everyone thought that’s what it was. Matt estimates that they talked to over 60 people during the 4-hour display. Not one person said that they didn’t like the funky design. Matt and Leah had brochures on hand to give out for the dealer who had been so helpful.
“What is it?” People did not realise that Great Wall was going electric. There are already many Great Wall utes on the road and the GWM sub-brand “Haval” is one of the more popular SUVs in Australia. “Is it electric?” Then the usual “How far can it go? How long does it take charge?” and the best question of all — “How much does it cost?” The ORA (with the government rebate) is not much more than a conventional hybrid Corolla.
One woman’s interest stood out. She owns a Nissan Micra (which has similar looks to the ORA). She liked the way the ORA stood out — “all the others look the same!” As she was walking around the car, she said, “I’ll have to look into this, it’s unique!” Not only are Matt and Leah taking their ORA to EV displays and Coffee and Cake mornings; they are also answering questions in ORA Facebook groups.
Matt describes the ORA as half the price of his Tesla, but not half the quality — “about 80%,” he estimates. Even though the Tesla is smarter and faster, Leah prefers to drive the ORA. “It meets my needs.” The only change they have made to the car is to fit wider 19” wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres as fitted to the Model 3 also. This has improved the driving experience, but has also increased the energy consumption.
Matt and Leah have become part of the ORA EV community and are loving their experience with this funky yet affordable EV. Great to see them at the Coffee, Cake, and EVs event at Yandina on the Sunshine Coast.
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