BYD Qin Plus EV
BYD reported that its updated Qin Plus EV received 23,590 orders during its first week on market. Image Credit: X | BYD

An electric vehicle (EV) with a 420-km range for the price of a gas-powered Corolla? That’s what BYD has achieved with its Qin Plus EV, announced in its home market, China, in the midst of an EV price war.

Five Qin Plus EV variants were released Monday (February 19), priced between 109,800 yuan to 139,800 yuan ($15,254 to $19,400).

It gets even better: BYD also unveiled the Qin Plus DM-i, the latest iteration of its plug-in hybrid sedan, at a notably reduced starting price of $11,090 – seen as a tough challenge for legacy automakers.

The revised model, priced at 79,800 yuan, signifies a notable 20 per cent reduction from its predecessor, placing it in direct competition with widely favored entry-level gasoline sedans.

The latest pricing move is significant: The DM-i (PHEV) variant priced at 79,800 yuan offers an electric-only range of up to 120 km (74 miles) under NEDC standards.

It’s not clear at this point if – or when – the same dollar price equivalents of the new models would hold outside China.

The new models come with decent specs. Equipped with an electric motor generating up to 134 hp (100 kW) and 132 lb-ft (180 Nm) of maximum torque, the EV-only Qin Plus variants offer a choice between a 48 kWh or 57.6 kWh battery pack.

BYD states the new models will deliver ranges of up to 261 miles (420 km) and 316 miles (510 km), respectively, based on the China Light-Duty Vehicle Test Cycle (CLTC) standard.

The latest move forms part of BYD’s strategy to stay competitive in the world's largest automotive market. BYD's Wang Chuanfu, dubbed as the "Elon Musk of China", is respected as a nimble competitor at home and abroad.

BYD currently operates more than 30 industrial parks and production bases globally. Its facilities include factories located outside of China, such as those in the US, Brazil, Japan, Hungary, and India.

Supported by investment from Warren Buffett, BYD stands out as an innovator in EV space, notably pioneering the “blade battery” technology utilising Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP), which safer and cheaper than lithium-ion storage.

Efficiency, safety

Beyond its technical merits, which include enhanced safety through improved heat management and cooling, blade batteries also offer heightened efficiency compared to conventional ternary lithium batteries, further elevating safety standards.

Last year, BYD introduced the Qin Plus Champion Edition, priced to match petrol-powered vehicles, effectively challenging the dominance of joint-venture fuel vehicles. At 99,800 yuan ($13,900), this edition marked the first instance of BYD's DM-i model being priced below 100,000 yuan.

With the DM-i variant of the Qin Plus Honor Edition starting at 79,800 yuan ($11,000) and the EV version commencing at 109,800 yuan ($15,200) – it’s been dubbed as the “Corolla killer”.

Toyota sold 1.64 million Corollas globally in 2023, according to Carscoops. BYD sold three million battery-powered cars in 2023, overtaking Tesla in EV sales in Q4 of 2023.

The Chinese EV maker is also unveiling a new Champion Edition Dolphin EV – with an extended range of up to 323 miles (519 km) CLTC and a lower price compared to its predecessor, which currently starts at 104,800 yuan ($14,500).

What about real-dollar pricing?

There's just one problem with these prices: while the Chinese yuan equivalent of the Qin Plus EV is about $15,200, it doesn’t have a US price, or any price outside China, at all.

EV industry observers say it may actually have a euro price of around €28,000 ($30,276).

For reference, the starting price of the BYD ATTO 3 in China is 139,800 yuan ($20,000) – the starting price in Europe is €38,000 ($40,000).

A Toyota Corolla starts at €34,000 in the Netherlands. In the US, the price of the 2024 Toyota Corolla starts at $23,145 and goes up to $28,345 depending on the trim and options.

The US uses the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) test, which produces figures closest to what is seen in real-world tests.

The EU and some other territories rely on Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP), which replaced the wildly optimistic and now-obsolete NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) in 2019.

The CLTC (China Light Duty Vehicle Test Cycle), which replaced the NEDC in China, is usually the most optimistic of the three.

BYD is not immune to the same supply chain challenges faced by its competitors. Chuanfu, a chemical engineer by training, continues to defy conventions and has effectively re-engineered lithium-ion batteries by mega-scaling LFP batteries.

The recent introduction of the Qin Plus models and the upcoming Champion Edition Dolphin EV could further solidify BYD's position as a leader in the consumer EV space.