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Chinese EV here next year

EV bid: BYD's F3DM plug-in hybrid at the Detroit motor show last month.

Importer of Australia’s first Chinese car brand commits to electric car here in 2011

5 Feb 2010

THE man behind Australia’s first Chinese vehicle brand says he expects to release an electric car here by 2011.

Ateco Automotive was responsible for launching Great Wall Motors in Australia last year and has also committed to rolling out China’s Chery brand locally in July.

Now the owner and governing director of Australia’s largest privately owned automotive distributor has revealed plans to release its first EV here – and it could come courtesy of a third Chinese marque in the form of BYD.

“I think we'll have an electric car in 011,” said Neville Crichton last week. “I'll be surprised if the Chinese makers don't come out with an electric car in a very short period of time.”

Mr Crichton said he could not provide details of the EV model or even the brand via which it will arrive here, but conceded that he was in negotiations with other car-makers, including one from India.

“We’re looking all the time… (but) there are no contracts yet,” he said. “We’ve been talking to the Indians for quite some time. I think there are brands available in India, but we’re committed to China and we like what we see.”

193 center imageLeft: BYD's F3DM plug-in hybrid and the e6.

Great Wall has developed a lithium-ion battery-powered electric version of its Peri, which is expected to become the pioneering Chinese brand’s first passenger car here in July, but GWM’s first production EV will be an all-new model that could appear alongside a new three-door city-car at the Beijing motor show in April.

A more likely candidate to join Mitsubishi’s limited-import i-MiEV electric car on sale in Australia is a forthcoming EV from BYD, which was previewed by an all-electric concept car at the Detroit motor show last month.

Backed by US billionaire Warren Buffett, who invested $US230 million ($247m) into the company in 2008, BYD confirmed to Fairfax media at Detroit that it plans to be on sale in Australia within two years, and that its first EV will soon enter production.

BYD, which stands for ‘build your dreams’, sold 450,000 vehicles in 2009 (a 160 per cent increase on 2008 sales) and has ambitious plans to sell 800,000 vehicles this year, before becoming China’s biggest car-maker in 2015 – and the world’s by 2025.

Alongside its small ‘F3DM’ plug-in hybrid, BYD revealed its first all-electric car, the five-seat ‘e6’ people-mover, at Detroit.

Powered by a lithium-ferrous battery pack, the plug-in e6 is claimed to have an impressive 330km driving range, a 140km/h top speed and 0-100km/h acceleration of 14 seconds.

Mr Crichton confirmed Ateco’s first zero-emissions vehicle would be a full plug-in EV rather than a petrol-electric hybrid.

He said the vehicle would be profitable for Ateco, despite costing less than other pioneering plug-in vehicles like the i-MiEV, as well as Nissan’s Leaf and the Holden-badged Chevrolet Volt, both of which are due on sale here in 2012.

“We’ll make money on EVs – I don’t think the electric cars that will come initially will be twice the price of petrol cars. I guess it (their success) comes down to fuel prices,” he said.

“Anyone who wants to get in to the marketplace properly … it's got to be priced right.

“We’ve been working quite closely with the government with the facilities for electric cars over the last 18 months … We want to be in that business.”

Mr Crichton said he expected EVs to play an integral role in the establishment of Chinese brands as major players in the Australian automotive landscape.

“I can see it (EVs) coming quite quickly, at least in the cities. I think they’d be fantastic for Sydney or Melbourne. We’ve all got to look to the future.

“I have no doubt in five years the Chinese will have a major, major share of the (Australian) market. They’re the biggest manufacturers in the world.”

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