Over the past two years, Chinese electric vehicles (EVs) from companies like Xpeng, BYD, and MG have become a common sight on the streets of Finland, Stockholm and Oslo. This trend isn't limited to Nordics alone; it's spreading across Europe, offering consumers a unique opportunity to embrace electric mobility. China's commitment to electrification isn't just about reducing air pollution; the country has been aiming at providing affordable, high-quality EVs to its own 1.5 billion citizens and of course the global market.
China's dedication to electrification extends beyond environmental considerations; it's about becoming a major player in the global auto industry. While China has a history of manufacturing budget-friendly, entry-level vehicles, the rise of electric vehicles has opened the door to compete on a global scale. Today, Chinese automakers are not just making EVs; they are making them with quality and affordability in mind.
Chinese EVs vs. Prestigious Western Brands
While Chinese-made EVs may not carry the same luxury badge as a Porsche or the tech-savvy appeal of a Tesla, but they cater to a vast market of budget-conscious consumers. Western automakers have primarily focused on high-end electric models, leaving a significant gap in the affordable EV segment. Chinese automakers have seized this opportunity to to fill the niche.
Brands in Finland
Voyah, a brand under the state-owned giant Dongfeng, is launching in Finland, introducing the Free, a street-smart SUV with ambitious claims of "revolutionising the premium electric vehicle market" and being of the "utmost elite" class. As Juha-Pekka Mäkinen, CEO of Nordcars, the company responsible for importing Voyah to Finland, told Helsingin Sanomat, "Conservative minds won't be swayed by words or speeches. I encourage curiosity and giving this vehicle a chance. After a test drive, we can have discussions about what's good and what's not."
Priced at €79,900, the Voyah Free offers a substantial all-wheel-drive SUV with a spacious interior, a 100-kilowatt-hour battery pack, and an impressive estimated range of 500 kilometres. While the vehicle's specs are noteworthy, its entry into the Finnish market is not coincidental. Nordcars conducted thorough due diligence, engaging in negotiations with Dongfeng following their visit to the Beijing Auto Show. As Mäkinen explained, "We visited the Beijing Auto Show at the beginning of the year, and we began negotiations. By the time summer came, we had agreements in place." With confidence in the brand's ethical and responsible practices and consideration of Finnish winter conditions, Voyah is poised to make its mark in Finland's electric vehicle landscape.
Voyah Free SUV ready for test drive in Helsinki / Lehtikuva
Another Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer BYD made its entrance into Finland earlier with a store at Espoon Ainoa shopping center. According to the country manager Michael Place, "BYD comes from the words: ”Build Your Dreams.”
"Many drivers often have preconceived notions about Chinese car brands,” however, Place suggests that one should experience the car firsthand before passing judgment: "Before condemning the brand, it's worth getting to know and test-driving the car yourself."
The test drive indeed challenges preconceptions, as the Han model offers top-notch finishing, a quiet driving experience, and a sporty and luxurious sedan feel. Moreover, it packs innovative technology, an impressive 517 horsepower, and a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 3.9 seconds.
BYD's passenger car lineup currently consists of three models: Atto 3, Tang 4 × 4 SUV, and Han 4 × 4. The Atto 3 starts at €44,000 and is a compact-sized model, while the Tang 4 × 4 SUV is a spacious seven-seater family car with four-wheel drive. Starting from the beginning of the year, there will be a total of six different models available, with the upcoming Dolphin being the most affordable at €35,000, sharing the same size as Volkswagen's ID 3.
Notably, BYD, one of the world's largest electric vehicle manufacturers, uses its proprietary Blade battery technology, which the company claims is groundbreaking, particularly in terms of longevity. With the company's robust product development and resources, Finland's Espoon Ainoa shopping center has welcomed BYD, offering customers the opportunity to test drive their vehicles alongside their retail presence, although customer reactions have been mixed, with some expressing concerns about the Chinese brand's quality compared to European competitors, while others have been pleasantly surprised during test drives. Place asserts that BYD is not a startup but a brand that will remain in the automotive market.
Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares' Perspective
Carlos Tavares, the CEO of Stellantis, a global automotive group, has drawn attention to the significant price difference between European and Chinese electric vehicles. Tavares points out that European regulations have resulted in electric cars built in Europe being approximately 40% more expensive than their Chinese counterparts. This price disparity has the potential to push European middle-class consumers towards choosing Chinese-made EVs.
One of the key factors contributing to this price difference is the cost of batteries, a critical component of electric vehicles. European consumers have been paying a premium for smaller urban EVs compared to their Chinese counterparts. To address this issue, rapid innovation is essential. European automakers need to find ways to make small, affordable EVs with competitive battery prices.
The rise of affordable Chinese-made electric vehicles represents an exciting opportunity for Nordic and European consumers. These vehicles may not carry the same prestige as luxury European brands in the minds of consumers yet, but they offer a practical and accessible option for those looking to embrace electric mobility without breaking the bank. As the industry evolves, European automakers will need to adapt to this changing landscape, ensuring that high-quality, affordable EVs are readily available to meet the growing demand. Ultimately, the emergence of Chinese EVs in Europe highlights the need for innovation and competition, driving the automotive industry towards a more sustainable and accessible future for consumers worldwide.
Here are the most exciting new Chinese EVs in the Nordic market as of October 2023, along with some of their key features:
The BYD Han is one of the first Chinese EVs to feature a blade battery, which is a safer and more efficient type of battery technology. The Han also has a new electric drive system that is more powerful and efficient than previous BYD models.
Impressive range of up to 506 kilometres (WLTP)
Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds
Luxurious interior with a large touchscreen display
Advanced safety features such as adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning
The Xpeng P7 is one of the first Chinese EVs to feature a lidar sensor, which allows for more accurate and reliable self-driving features. The P7 also has a new augmented reality (AR) navigation system that displays directions on the windshield.
Sleek and aerodynamic design
Range of up to 536 kilometres (WLTP)
Advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) with features such as automatic emergency braking and lane centring
Large panoramic sunroof
MG ZS EV
The MG ZS EV is one of the first Chinese EVs to feature a wireless charging system. The ZS EV also has a new over-the-air (OTA) update system that allows for software updates to be installed without having to take the car to a dealership.
Range of up to 320 kilometres (WLTP)
Practical and spacious interior
Five-star Euro NCAP safety rating
Ora Funky Cat
The Ora Funky Cat is one of the first Chinese EVs to feature a voice-activated virtual assistant. The Funky Cat also has a new face recognition system that can be used to unlock the car and start the engine.
Range of up to 310 kilometres (WLTP)
Easy to park and manoeuvre
Other Chinese EVs that are expected to launch in the Nordic market in the near future include the Nio ET7 and Li Auto L9. Both of these vehicles are luxury SUVs with long ranges and advanced features.