Will this Chinese hatch be NZ’s first sub-$40k electric car?

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Words: Matthew Hansen
27 Apr 2021

The topic of cheap electric cars is a heck of a conversation starter in New Zealand motoring circles.

Some decry the flow of first-generation Nissan Leafs, while others commend them as a valid EV entry point. Some say car brands aren’t doing enough to make affordable new options, while others say they’re hamstrung by high costs.

In the midst of this, it appears likely that Chinese car manufacturers are going to take advantage of the thirst for more affordable EVs. And this is where the BYD e1 comes into the picture.

The Chinese car maker unveiled its new bargain bin electric hatchback last week at the Shanghai Auto Show, sporting clean, chic styling, two-tone bodywork, those little blue highlights that help identify its green creds.

Indeed, the e1 was one of a mass of electric cars unveiled in Shanghai, many of which wore more spectacular frocks and boasted more jaw-dropping technology. What sets the e1 apart, though, is that it could be coming to New Zealand.

BYD distributor Nexport confirmed late last year that the Chinese car giant would be setting up shop in New Zealand and Australia, although roll-out of information about how exactly this will work has been thin.

More to the point, a Nexport spokesperson told Australian outlet CarAdvice that the EV hatch is destined to be sold in Australia for under AU$35,000, or around $37,700 in New Zealand currency.

On top of this, Nexport’s Luke Todd has claimed that the e1 comes with a range of around 500km per charge, making it one of the longest-range electric cars you can buy under $100,000, let alone under $50,000.

The jaw-dropping and faintly believable claims about the e1 continued on the show floor at Shanghai, with BYD officials claiming it will be able to accelerate to 100km/h in just 2.9 seconds. Not sure we're buying that one.

Australia’s order books for the model open in July, with deliveries slated to follow in Q1 of 2021. It’s unknown whether the e1 will make it to New Zealand, but if it does it could well be a gamechanger for electric cars locally.

The current cheapest electric car sold in New Zealand is the $48,990 MG ZS EV. It doubles as the only electric vehicle priced under $50,000, which entrants like the Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Ioniq, and Mini electric priced around the $60,000 marker.


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