BYD Targets Low- & Middle-Income Drivers, Goes All In On LFP Battery Technology
The Model 3 in China costs 249,900 yuan ($38,135) after all incentives and subsidies. BYD is targeting drivers who want less expensive electric cars. It has recently introduced two new models — the Qin Plus sedan, which starts at 129,800 yuan ($19,820) and the Song Plus, an SUV that starts at 169,800 yuan ($25,911). The popular BYD e2 compact electric car starts at 99,800 yuan ($15,230) and has recently been refreshed for 2021. Even BYD’s all-wheel-drive Tang electric SUV is competitive with the Tesla Model Y. It retails for under 300,000 yuan ($45,780), while a comparably equipped Model Y starts at 347,900 yuan ($53,090).
“Unlike Tesla and its Chinese rivals that focus on the upper market, BYD is offering electric cars that are affordable to China’s middle income wage earners and price sensitive drivers,” Gao Shen, an independent analyst in Shanghai, tells Yahoo Finance. “In terms of sales volume and market share, BYD will be competitive in this fast-growing EV market.”
All In On LFP
This week, BYD chairman Wang Chuanfu announced, “From today onwards, all pure NEVs under the BYD brand will adopt blade battery. I hope safety will no longer be a barrier to the proliferation of new energy vehicles. Some industry participants have irrationally gone after NCM batteries [to chase after] ever-higher driving range at the expense of stability and safety. Some 124 incidents of NEVs emitting smoke were recorded in China last year.” He was speaking from the BYD battery factory in Chongqing, where its so-called Blade Battery modules are manufactured.
LFP batteries struggle to match the energy density or fast charging times of NMC batteries, but they are significantly less expensive and much less prone to thermal runaway. Worldwide installations of NMC batteries in electric vehicles fell 4.1% last year to 38.9 GWh for a market share of 61%, according to Jefferies research. Also last year, LFP installations grew 20.6% to 24.4 GWh, for a market share of 38.3%. LFP batteries also eliminate the supply chain issues associated with limited elements like nickel and cobalt.
In a research note to investors reported by Mining.com, BMO Capital Markets analysts said that given BYD is “the industry leader in LFP, this announcement isn’t too surprising and has given them a good platform to put down their ternary competition, but it does once again reinforce that a wide portfolio of battery chemistries will be used for electric vehicles over the coming years. It is however a net negative for nickel and cobalt demand.”
Range and charging times are vital statistics for EV shoppers. But knowing the battery in your all-electric chariot is not going to have a “thermal event” is pretty darn important for some people as well. Hyundai and GM have been struggling to contain a battery fire problem with cells manufactured by LG Chem. Even though only about a dozen fires have been reported worldwide, Hyundai is planning to replace most of those batteries in a recall campaign that may cost almost a billion dollars. GM says it will address the issue with a software patch.
By contrast, when BYD introduced its Blade Battery last year, it focused on how it had survived torture tests like being attacked with a hatchet, penetrated by a nail, crushed, bent, heated in a furnace to 300° C and overcharged by 260%. Range may be one thing, but it’s not the only thing!
There are a lot of players in the EV market, with more wanting to get in on the fun all the time. Not all of them will survive. Tesla, Volkswagen, and Hyundai/KIA look like they will make the cut, and BYD, with its commitment of resources and focus on affordable EVs, should be a long-term player in the market as well.