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Reviewing the BYD Tang EV in Russia

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Hello! I am from Russia, my name is Ilya, I have lived in the city of Perm since birth. It is located at latitude 58, almost the same as Alaska’s capital, Juneau. Only, the population of Juneau is some 31,000 people, and Perm is more than 1 million people.

At the end of last year, I purchased an electric car from the Chinese brand BYD, a 2023 BYD Tang EV, and I want to tell you about my experience using it. Now on my odometer it’s a little more than 6,000 kilometers. ​BYD dethroned Tesla as the world’s largest plugin vehicle maker in 2022, but many people in Europe and the US still don’t know a lot about its vehicles.

To make my expectations of the car clearer to you, why I chose this particular model, and what I’m comparing it with, I will briefly tell my story as a motorist. I’m a fan of two German brands, BMW and Audi. The first car I owned was a Russian Lada, a family saloon, but then the opportunity arose to purchase an Audi A6 with a 2.5 liter engine. This car fascinated me. From then until this BYD, our family had only BMWs and Audis — I drove a BMW, my wife drove an Audi, and sometimes I took her car. I always chose a BMW with a good, if not top-end, engine because I like to push the pedal to the metal. From the BMW line, I had the opportunity to own the 3er (3 Series), 7er (7 Series), and X5 diesel and gasoline, but for the longest time — exactly 10 years — I drove a three-liter diesel all-wheel drive 5er (5 Series). I purchased this car almost new — it was a dealer’s demo car — with a good discount. My wife has been driving an Audi Q5 for the last 15 years, and I consider this model to be an almost perfect car.

So, returning to BYD, when choosing a car to replace the BMW 5er 3.0 d, I wanted an SUV, not a sedan, because high ground clearance was important to me. Of course, I wanted something with all-wheel drive, because we have winter and snow for six months in Perm. Also, I’m used to comfort — it’s more important to me how the car is equipped inside than how it looks from the outside.

After the start of the war in Ukraine, German cars became much more expensive in Russia. They were already, to put it mildly, expensive, because Russia has high import duties on cars. Namely, with BMW, the situation is even worse: firstly, they have become much more expensive on the world market; secondly, import duties in Russia remained high; thirdly, costs have increased further due to the fact that BMW now has to be imported through other countries. And, most importantly, BMW’s reliability has become a problem — this was the case before, and even more so recently. Besides, I wanted to try an electric car. And not a hybrid, but a purely electric one.

This put me at the first fork in the road: either Tesla or Chinese. Tesla was a “no-go,” for many reasons: their only model which would more or less fit the definition of an SUV is the Model X, but it’s just miserable on the inside, and it costs a whole lot of money — for what?

The Chinese EVs are much more interesting. There is now a real Cambrian explosion of electric cars, and there is a price tag for every taste and budget.

I test drove the Zeekr 01 and liked it, but it’s still a big sedan, albeit with a high ground clearance if you raise the air suspension to maximum. But still, this is not an SUV.

Next, I tested the Lixiang L9. Although the quality of the materials is excellent, it did not impress me with the interior design. Besides, it is too big, and, most importantly, all Lixiang are hybrids, and I wanted a pure electric car.

Then there was the Voyah Free EV. I liked the interior design and quality of materials. She’s very fast. The air suspension is excellent. And yet, in my opinion, this is also not an SUV, but rather a city car.

So the choice fell on BYD. As I said above, it is now the largest plugin vehicle manufacturer in the world. It is not surprising, since the company began as a manufacturer of batteries for cell phones. So, these guys know everything they can about batteries, and for their cars, of course, they make them themselves. Their signature product is the so called “Blade battery.” I have it in my BYD Tang, with a capacity of 108 kWh.

The Chinese have a different approach to car configurations and options than the Europeans (e.g., BMW). In fact, there are only 3–4 car options: all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, and a hybrid or a pure electric car. I chose the maximum: all-wheel drive (two motors, one on each axle), total power of 517 horsepower. The manufacturer claims that this car accelerates to 100 km/h in 4.4 seconds. I haven’t tried it, but I believe it. It is significantly faster than my BMW with a three-liter diesel engine. When you press the accelerator on the Tang, you get some kind of slight high-pitched extraterrestrial “weeeezzz” sound, and all the neighboring cars become small in the rearview mirror.

The Tang has a fairly stiff suspension (air suspension is, unfortunately, not available in any configuration). The car steers sharply and clearly, no worse than a BMW. But it takes turns even better due to the very low center of gravity: after all, the battery is located under the floor, and it is heavy.

The cabin is very spacious. The seat formula is 2+2+2, which I didn’t really like at first. I kept wanting to find a configuration with 2+3 seats, but it turned out that for some reason they don’t make it in the all-wheel drive version. Now, I drive with 2+2 seats, and the rear 2 are constantly folded to allow more space in the trunk. There is a lot of space in the cabin, and in the back row the floor is flat because there is no transmission under the floor. All seats are heated, ventilated, and have massage capability. The steering wheel is also heated, which is nice in our climate. The interior materials are excellent and pleasant to the touch. The visibility from the driver’s seat is excellent, plus there are cameras in all four directions.

 

The car has an excellent hi-fi audio, a large screen for navigation, and built-in applications. It’s great that this tablet runs regular Android, so you can put almost any application you need on it and it will work. It is a very open system, which is completely atypical for auto manufacturers. For example, my wife cannot install any third-party application on her brand new Audi Q5.

I told you about the dynamics, now about the battery and range. As I said, the battery in my model is 108 kWh. I live about 40 kilometers from the city, and this volume is enough for me for about 4 days of travel there and back. The Tang has a DC fast charging port and charges fully in about an hour. We only have a few of these chargers in our city, and I had to use them a couple of times. But mostly I charge it at home, at night, using the AC charging port. I bought a household charging station for about $400 and plug the car into it after about every third trip. There was a slight disappointment here. When I had just ordered a car and was choosing a charging station, I chose one with a power of 22 kW, 3-phase. It turned out that the Tang can only charge in one phase with a maximum power of 7 kW, but in reality it is 5.6–6 kW. However, this is enough for the car to be almost fully charged from 11:00 pm to 8:00 am. In general, this battery capacity is more than enough for daily trips, but I haven’t gone on a long trip in a Tang yet, and I’m unlikely to do so — rather, we’ll go in my wife’s Audi Q5 which runs on petrol.

People often ask what it’s like to use an electric car in winter. As you understand, our winters in Perm are harsh: for a week or two, sometimes the temperature is below -30°C, like this winter. An EV is way more comfortable in this climate than a diesel or petrol car. Half an hour before leaving, through the window, without leaving the house, I turn on the heating mode via the key fob, and then I get into the already warm car with my son and just go about my business. It’s convenient that in the city, if it’s cold, you can simply leave the car on. It keeps itself warm, with climate control turned on, and consumes only about 1 kW.

Speaking of kilowatts, this is the basic unit of measurement in the “electrical world.” The computer shows the average consumption in kilowatt-hours over the last 50 kilometers. My usual figures are from 25 to 29 kW. In the city, at low speeds, the Tang consumes much less than on the highway, where I do not deny myself anything and drive in areas where there are no cameras, at a speed of 140–150 km/h.

To understand the cost of travel without converting rubles into dollars and without comparing the cost of gasoline and electricity in different countries, I will say this: The most economical way to charge a car is the way I do it — in a country house, at night (from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.). It turns out that with such a charge, driving 100 kilometers costs me the same money as if I had a gasoline car with a consumption of 1.5 liters per 100 kilometers. If you charge at fast city chargers, all the savings disappear and you get the equivalent of 9 liters of gasoline per 100 kilometers.

I’ve told you everything I like about the Tang, now I’ll tell you what I don’t like or what’s missing. The list will be short. Firstly, there are no door closers. Secondly, all four cameras are constantly splashed with dirt in rainy weather, and you have to clean them. I envy Mercedes owners whose rear camera only pops out from under the emblem when required. And lastly, I would reassign several physical buttons to other functions. It turns out that most of them are rarely used, but functions that are, on the contrary, often needed — for example, the steering wheel heating — have to be called through the screen.

Otherwise, I am very pleased with the car so far. My choice turned out to be correct. I hope that BYD will live up to its reputation for producing reliable, durable cars and that I will not have to be a regular customer of auto repair shops, which is what I am used to when owning a BMW.


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