With seven seats, low running costs and a low price tag, could the BYD M3e be the car that switches Singapore on to EVs?
SINGAPORE — The cheapest electric car in Singapore is now the BYD M3e, which is now on sale for S$106,888 with Certificate Of Entitlement. The launch of the seven-seat car is also something of a milestone event: it marks the moment electric vehicles (EVs) reached price parity with combustion cars.
Based on BYD’s T3 panel van, the M3e marries battery power with a 2+2+3 seating and sliding doors. It has a relatively small footprint (at 4,460mm long and 1,720mm wide it’s smaller than a Honda City) but it’s tall enough for what should be a roomy cabin, at 1,875mm.
As for the headline number for any EV, the BYD M3e’s range is “as far as 300km” from a single charge, according to local importer E-Auto. The Sime Darby subsidiary launched BYD’s passenger cars here in July last year, kicking things off with the e6 hatchback.
Sales have been glacial — figures from the Land Transport Authority show just one BYD registration in the first nine months of 2020. But the M3e could turn that around with its cheap-n-cheerful approach to electric motoring.
E-Auto says it costs as little as S$11.60 to fully recharge. The 50.3kWh battery takes 1 hour and 18 minutes to top up with a 40 kilowatt DC fast charger, or 7 hours 36 minutes with a 6.6 kW AC charger. Like other electric cars, it has relatively few moving parts and costs little to maintain.
The M3e itself looks fairly simple in terms of spec, with just two airbags and few frills to speak of. A 70 kW, 180 Newton-metre motor drives the front wheels, likely giving the 1.7-tonne car languid performance.
BYD says its car batteries are good for 4,000 charge-discharge cycles. That would take the M3e comfortably past a million kilometres, long beyond the point a combustion engine would be kaput.
The Chinese company started as a battery manufacturer, making packs for laptops, phones, power tools and so on, and entered the car business in 2003. Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor, is a high-profile stakeholder.
Falling plug-in car sales in China have put the brakes on BYD’s performance this year, with the brand’s first eight months’ output down 51 percent to 85,257 vehicles. It’s still the sixth largest maker of EVs and plug-in hybrids in the world, and China’s leading player in the space.
Given that batteries account for roughly a third of a typical EV’s cost, BYD’s expertise at making them are likely the main reason it can build the M3e cheaply enough to be cost-competitive with combustion cars. Whether the seven-seater will be competitive in other ways is something we’ll comment on after a test drive.
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