China’s Tesla is launching in South Africa — with an electric car that offers load-shedding backup

Chinese automotive giant Build Your Dreams (BYD) is launching its compact electric crossover — the BYD Atto 3 — in South Africa.

MyBroadband has learnt that the company, often referred to as “China’s Tesla”, plans to hold a local launch event for the vehicle next month.

The Atto 3, known as the BYD Yuan Plus in China, is already on sale in several markets outside its homeland — including Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Singapore.

It features a single front-wheel-drive electric motor that produces a peak output of 150kW and 310Nm torque, enabling acceleration from 0-100km/h in 7.3 seconds.

The Atto 3 gets a 50kWh battery on the standard range model, while an extended range variant features a 60kWh pack.

Both of these support DC fast charging at up to 89kW and AC charging of up to 11kW.

The former can take the larger of the two batteries from 30% to 80% in around 29 minutes or 0–100% in roughly 80 minutes.

The extended range version can drive up to 420km on a single charge, based on the WLTP standard.

Top Gear has given the Atto 3 a 7/10 rating, applauding its decent driving experience, equipment, and refined and spacious cabin.

Popular YouTube motoring channel Carwow also recently reviewed it, praising its surround view cameras, large boot space, and remote start capability.

Some sore points were the lack of lumbar support on its front seats, no retainers for the rear seat belts, and a low-placed boot release.

BYD Atto 3 seen from the front

Speculation was rife that the car could debut in South Africa in the coming months after launching in another right-hand drive market with a similar climate — Australia.

In that country, the BYD Atto 3 comes in three trims  — Active, Comfort, and Design.

All three boast an impressive array of safety and driving assistance features as standard — including forward and rear collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping and changing assistance, a direct tyre pressure monitoring system, and front passenger seat ISOFIX anchor points.

This impressive kit helped the Atto 3 achieve a five-star rating in the Euro NCAP safety tests.

But with Eskom’s current struggles, South Africans might be more interested to know that it also boasts vehicle-to-load (V2L) capability.

V2L allows the Atto 3’s battery pack to supply standard 120/240V power to run several home or other appliances via an extension cord.

All models sold in Australia can continuously supply up to 2.2kW of output, although testing has shown that this can reach as high as 3.2kW for short periods.

The entry-level battery size of 50kWh is equivalent to just over three Tesla Powerwalls, while the larger 60kWh is the same size as four units.

At its rated peak output of 2.2kW, it should be able to provide continuous backup power for almost 23 hours of outages on the smaller battery.

BYD Atto 3 charger

The exact Atto 3 models that will be available in South Africa remain to be confirmed, as does local pricing.

In Australia, the Atto 3 starts at AU$48,011 (R612,106) for the model with the standard range battery pack, and AU$51,011 (R650,871) for the extended range version.

BYD is the second major Chinese manufacturer to offer an EV in South Africa, after GWM.

For reference, the GWM Ora Funky Cat starts at AU$43,990 (R561,500) in Australia and has a starting price tag of R716,900 in South Africa.

If BYD’s shipping, import, and margins are similar to GWM’s, the Atto 3 should retail below R800,000 in South Africa, although that is pure speculation.

BYD Atto 3 seen from the rear

BYD Automotive is China’s biggest electric vehicle (EV) maker by sales and is closing in on Tesla for the top global spot.

It surpassed Tesla’s EV production numbers by over 500,000 units in 2022, with a whopping 211% increase from the previous year, pushing it from 598,019 to just about 1.86 million units.

Tesla, which held the lead in 2021 by roughly 400,000 units, produced 40% more cars than the previous year, putting its total at 1.31 million vehicles.

BYD already beats Tesla in total plug-in sales, which includes fully-electric and hybrid vehicles.

When only considering fully-electric vehicles, Tesla beat BYD with roughly 1.3 million cars sold compared to about 900,000. However, BYD is quickly gaining ground.

Tesla’s delivery of 422,875 new EVs to customers in the first quarter of 2023 was 36% higher than in the same period of the previous year.

BYD sold 143,223 fully-electric models, an increase of 85% from Q1 2022.

Although a significant contributor to the company’s growth, BYD Auto is just one part of a larger conglomerate.

BYD’s other major subsidiary — BYD Electronic — is one of the world’s biggest battery and mobile phone component manufacturers.

Now read: Electric car sales surge in South Africa

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China’s Tesla is launching in South Africa — with an electric car that offers load-shedding backup