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Spied: Australia's cheapest electric car?

CarsGuide logo CarsGuide 2/12/2022 Stephen Ottley

The BYD Atto 3 is set to get company soon, with an example of the Chinese brand’s Dolphin electric hatchback spotted on a Sydney street. The lightly camouflaged right-hand-drive vehicle is seemingly undergoing final testing ahead of its launch here in 2023.

Luke Todd, head of BYD distributor EV Direct, had previously told CarsGuide the Dolphin and Seal models are the most likely next additions to the new brand’s line-up. Both are part of the ‘Ocean Series’ which features a range of all-electric models named after sea creatures and plug-in hybrids named after boats. 

“We are doing extensive, robust on-the-ground testing for the products we’re releasing,” Mr Todd told CarsGuide this week.

It’s unclear if the Dolphin name will be retained for local sale, with Mr Todd not able to confirm it yet, but it’s worth noting the test car was fitted with the name badge on the tailgate.

The Dolphin (or whatever nameplate BYD decides on locally) is powered by either a single 70kW/180Nm electric motor in the entry-level and mid-grade models overseas or a 130kW/290Nm unit for the high-end model. It’s not clear which specification we’ll receive locally.

All Dolphin models are equipped with BYD’s unique Blade Battery, which uses lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) that according to the company allows for unique packaging that translates to greater strength and thermal stability compared to lithium-ion batteries. Overseas models are listed as having a claimed range between 301km and 405km depending on specification.

Mr Todd indicated that given the preference for the long-range Atto3 model, the Australian-specification Dolphin will get the largest battery pack.

All Dolphin models are equipped with BYD’s unique Blade Battery, which uses lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP). (Image: Stephen Ottley) © CarsGuide.com.au All Dolphin models are equipped with BYD’s unique Blade Battery, which uses lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP). (Image: Stephen Ottley)

At 4150mm in length the Dolphin is slightly shorter than the Nissan Leaf (4490mm) but has the same 2700mm wheelbase, so expect it to offer similar space inside.

While the Dolphin is a small hatch, the upcoming Seal is a mid-size sedan similar in size to a Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry, with a length of 4800mm, which would expand the reach of the brand locally. It is understood the Seal could be renamed to Atto 4 in Australia.

Mr Todd confirmed that the Dolphin will be on sale locally in the first half of 2023, explaining we wanted to cut down the time between the car’s official launch and when it hits the showrooms after the extended wait between the reveal of the Atto 3 and customers taking delivery.

“We’re trying to bring the launch date and the on-sale dates closer together,” he said. 

Local specifications and pricing remain unclear, but Mr Todd indicated there is the potential for the Dolphin to undercut the Atto 3 on price and become Australia’s first electric car priced under $40,000. The Atto 3 begins at $44,990 drive-away and Mr Tood confirmed the Dolphin will start for less.

At 4150mm in length the Dolphin is slightly shorter than the Nissan Leaf (4490mm). (Image: Stephen Ottley) © CarsGuide.com.au At 4150mm in length the Dolphin is slightly shorter than the Nissan Leaf (4490mm). (Image: Stephen Ottley)

“The Dolphin will be a lower price than the Atto 3 and the Seal will be a higher price than the Atto 3,” he said.

Asked if that meant less than $40k, Mr Todd was optimistic but unable to publicly commit to a starting price.

“That’s what we’re working towards,” he said.

Even with a low $40k price tag the Dolphin would have a significant price advantage over the Leaf. Nissan’s electric hatch is priced from $50,990 (plus on-road costs) for the standard Leaf and $61,490 for the Leaf e+.

As previously reported, BYD also has plans for a larger SUV known as the Sea Lion overseas, which will sit above the Atto 3 in the line-up. There’s also an even smaller hatch, badged as the Seagull in China, which could potentially offer an even cheaper entry-point to the range in future.

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