BYD Ute: Australian testing helping shape plug-in hybrid HiLux rival

Despite launching in Australia just 18 months ago, Chinese EV carmaker BYD is already preparing to launch a dual-cab ute here with hybrid technology and up to 1200km of combined range.

CEO of EVDirect (BYD’s local distributor), Luke Todd, told media the EV carmaker already had vehicles on the ground in here engaged in local testing and evaluation in the lead-up to its launch in late 2024.

“There are pickups in Australia right now that are being tested. The first ute arrived a couple of weeks ago and is going through testing locally,” he said.

“We’re seeing the BYD brand become more and more Australianised and suitable for Australian roads as the brand grows its range in Australia.”

While the full extent of local tuning and calibration specific to the Australian market are unclear at this point, Mr Todd was nonetheless keen to spell out the fact that changes had already been made to the vehicle.

“There’ll be design elements that have been made over six-to-nine months, so there’s already been elements suitable for Australia reengineered into the vehicle to make it more suitable for Australian conditions,” he said.

“It’s already happened. Some of the local stylings and attributes that people want to see in a ute or pickup have already been implemented by the Australian engineers in partnership with BYD engineers in China.

“Those changes will be implemented to the ute for other markets to make it better.”

BYD will introduce first of its DM-i Electric Platform Hybrids into the Australian market in 2024, commencing with a mid-sized SUV, followed by a pickup later in the year, according to Mr Todd.

“What we are introducing next year is the new DM-i technology, which are hybrid vehicles which nobody has yet seen in Australia,” he said.

“The hybrid that’s typically on-sale with our competitors across Australia at the moment is a petrol vehicle that’s had a battery introduced to it. BYD has a state-of-the-art technology that’s called DM-i, which is Dual-Motor Intelligence.”

While BYD didn’t go into any detail about the DM-i technology in the ute, Mr Liu Xueliang, the general manager of BYD’s Asia Pacific Automobile Sales Division, said that it would detail the differences between its technology and that used by its rivals.

“We will be highlighting exactly how DM-i works and a very detailed comparison of our DM-i versus the existing plug-in hybrids on the market,” he said.

“The fact we’re shooting for our own category with EVH shows that we’ve got a strong difference between the technology that’s on-sale at the moment to what BYD will be bringing here with the DM-i vehicles.” 

Mr Todd also believes the new hybrid technology is a world first and exclusive to BYD.

“There is no equivalent technology on the market anywhere in the world. This is exclusive to BYD and we strongly believe it is superior to anything that’s on the market,” he said.

“The technology with BYD is not like the traditional hybrid technology that we’re seeing in Australia. So, we’ll be sitting in our own pedigree. We’re currently having some early phase discussions with authorities, because our vehicles are different. It is electric platform hybrid, which has not yet been seen in Australia.”

Asked if he was predicting the ute to be a top-three seller in its segment in Australia, Mr Todd was careful not talk specifics, but said it had already scored better than its rivals under comparative testing.

“I think it’s too early to tell, but what I can say is we’ve had extensive testing of the ute and the engineers that were doing the comparison versus what is available on the Australian market were extremely impressed,” he said.

“In the five categories that we evaluated, it scored well above the other vehicles that are sitting in the top three at the moment.

“What I can say is that all of the early data speaks to the quality and to the suitability for the Australian market.”

Mr Todd was also tight-lipped when it came to pricing of the BYD ute, but was quick to point to its pricing strategy across all three battery-electric models already on sale here; namely the Atto 3 SUV, Dolphin hatch and just-launched Seal sedan.

“We’ve demonstrated that we’ve brought three high-quality vehicles at prices that were unthinkable 12-24-months ago and that’s our ambition to continue to do that,” he said.

“The battery inside the Electric Battery Hybrid is smaller, so there’s less cost, but the actual pricing we’d need to confirm.

“We’ll be looking at the competitors in the segment – there’s some really strong vehicles we’ll going head-to-head with and as we’ve proven, every time we’ve brought in a vehicle in our segment, in our category we’ve been very competitive, if not dominant.”

Apart from BYD’s pricing strategy, Mr Todd was also keen to stress the brand’s value-for-money proposition in terms of quality.

“We’re setting new benchmarks in Australia and the quality of the vehicles is not representative of the price – in a positive way and we look to have that same outcome with every vehicle we bring to Australia,” he said.

Previous reports have indicated the BYD Ute will feature independent rear suspension, while the powertrain will consist of a turbocharged 1.5-litre mated with two electric motors for a total system output of 365kW.

A pure-electric version is also reportedly in the works.

BYD now only sells pure-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles globally, but the brand has thus far only offered electric vehicles here.


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