World's largest electric vehicle brand extends footprint in SA

History will soon be made in the Eastern Cape when the first all-electric vehicle brand launches in the province.

The introduction of Chinese automaker BYD (Build Your Dreams) on December 1 marks another milestone in South Africa’s transition to EVs, with the Eastern Cape becoming the third province to offer the new energy vehicles after Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

BYD is the world’s leading manufacturer of EVs, surpassing one-million sales last year. It enjoys a presence in 70 countries and 400 cities globally.

These vehicles will be sold by the Kelston Motor Group, starting at premises off Buffelsfontein Road in Gqeberha before branching out to other parts of the province.

The agreement was concluded after a series of physical and online meetings between the directors of the two firms in recent months.

In addition to cutting down on carbon emissions, one of the big selling points for South Africans is that the vehicles are capable of powering portions of the home thanks to vehicle-to-load (VTOL) charging – ideal in countering the effects of loadshedding.

Kelston has considerable experience in selling hybrids from the likes of Toyota and Haval but BYD is its first foray into all-EV models.

Group operations director Peter McNaughton said it was clear that new-energy vehicles were part of the future of the automotive sector and the business aimed to be at the forefront of this evolution.

However, he said, being the first in this sector in the region meant that the company would have to make a substantial investment in guiding the public in understanding the benefits of EVs.

“What stands out about BYD is that there are not many EV brands at a similar price point (starting R700 000) that offer such appealing aesthetics,” he said.

He pointed out that if the brand’s lower running costs were considered, the vehicles were comparable economically with internal combustion engine-powered compact SUVs in this section of the market.

Studies show that because EVs comprise fewer moving parts and liquids like oil and transmission fuel, maintenance costs are brought down considerably.

The first model to be offered by Kelston is the ATTO 3 crossover, which is powered by BYD’s unique Blade Battery.

The cell offers a driving range of 340 to 420km per charge, which can power up from 30 to 80 per cent in just 40 minutes.

The automaker says the battery is not only safer and cheaper to manufacture but also more resilient, given that it still functioned perfectly after being driven over by a 46-ton truck in a road test.

It also offers a minimum of 4 000 charging cycles, which BYD says equates to around 60 years of usage.

The crossover’s external aesthetics are noted for the “dragon eyes” LED head and taillights, with the hatchback styling and power liftgate configuration giving the vehicle a distinctive sporty feel.

The interior features a 12.8-inch rotating touchscreen infotainment system while seating material offers motorists a sense of modern luxury.

The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa has also recommended incentives of up to R80 000 for EVs like the ATTO 3.

Longer range vehicles were in the pipeline, said McNaughton, who added that Kelston’s BYD operations would include a workshop and aftersales support.

“It’s a feather in our cap that BYD reached out to offer its vehicles to the province’s motoring public,” McNaughton said.

“We are incredibly excited about the future now that BYD is in the province.”