From apps to smartphones and mobile infrastructure, Chinese technology has invaded Britain in recent years.
But a new arrival in the form of electric cars could further expand China’s tech empire while knocking out competition from Western manufacturers.
BYD, a car manufacturer based in Shenzhen, has partnered with British car dealership Pendragon to sell its electric vehicles (EV) in the UK.
They are equipped with the latest high-tech features such as 360-degree cameras and sensors to assist the driver and avoid obstacles.
But this could fuel fears that they could be used to track movement, as could concerns about Chinese phones from the likes of Huawei and apps like TikTok.
Electric cars made by Chinese company BYD have more attractive prices than rival Tesla, owned by Elon Musk and based in California
BYD’s first electric car to hit the UK market – the Atto 3 – is available to order from this month.
It starts from £36,000, but Pendragon CEO Bill Berman thinks the Chinese company will bring an affordable electric car to Britain that will be as cheap as a Ford Focus – around £20,000.
BYD Atto 3: specifications
Reach: 200 miles
Battery: 60 kWh
Gear: 0-62 mph in 7 seconds
UK availability: March 2023
These cheaper BYD models will also cost half of EVs sold by Tesla, owned by Elon Musk and based in California.
Teslas start from around £50,000 and go well above £100,000 – and this price is a barrier to adoption.
“You can now look at the average price for a Ford Focus in the mid-1920s,” Berman told the Telegraph.
“My view is they’ll probably line up there.”
BYD – one of the few Chinese brands to enter the UK market alongside Great Wall Motor and Chery –makes electric trucks, buses and bicycles as well as passenger cars.
But they are equipped with a range of features – including cameras, sensors, radar and internet connectivity – that could be used for remote surveillance on behalf of the Chinese government, it is believed.
Smart EVs also collect metrics such as route history, vehicle speeds and even local weather, and this data can be hacked and data can be accessed and shared remotely, as shown by a German programmer who hacked a Tesla last year.
James Bore, technical expert and security consultant at Bores Group, said smart electric cars pose as much of a security threat as Chinese phones and apps like TikTok, which were banned from UK government smartphones earlier this month.
The government has already banned technology from Chinese tech company Huawei from the UK’s 5G infrastructure.
BYD, an electric vehicle company based in Shenzhen, has partnered with British car dealership Pendragon to sell its electric vehicle (EV) models in the UK
BYD cars are equipped with the latest high-tech features such as a 360-degree camera, radar and sensors to assist the driver and avoid obstacles
The BYD Atto 3 is equipped with a 150 kW motor and accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 7.3 seconds
“Smart EVs pose as much of a security/privacy threat as Chinese phones, smart devices, apps, etc.,” Bore told MailOnline.
“China is not really able to collect more data with the same tools than Facebook, for example,” Bore told MailOnline.
“The difference comes down to political opposition and the fact that the Chinese government is much, much more involved with Chinese companies than US/EU political entities are with their respective companies.
“Ultimately, the focus should be on China to highlight how our current technological ecosystem is designed to exploit individual personal data on an industrial scale to manipulate people.”
Currently, the vast majority of BYD vehicles are sold in China, apart from a few selected export markets such as Bahrain and Moldova, but it is now plans to expand rapidly across Europe.
In China, BYD sold more than five times as much as Tesla in the first two months of the year.
The company has enticed customers by offering more affordable price tags and shorter delivery windows, as well as the latest tech.
BYD has already denied equipping its trucks with technology that could be used to covertly spy on US citizens and provide data to the Chinese government.
In response to the 2020 allegations, BYD said in a statement that it “does not build buses that spy on Americans,” but builds buses that are “technologically superior to any other product on the market.”
BYD electric vehicles (EV) are on display at a car dealership in Shanghai, China, 3 February 2023
BYD drives innovation and partners with many US start-ups in the fight against climate change Cargo waves.
“It is unfortunate that BYD’s competitors have chosen to use the legislative process to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”
Tense relations between Washington and Beijing and President Joe Biden’s move to prioritize electric car and battery production domestically could also prove to be barriers to BYD’s rollout in the US.
Chinese authorities also seem to have recognized the threat of Tesla cars in China, although they failed to do so with an outright ban.
Last year, China banned Teslas in Beidaihe for two weeks when the city hosted the Chinese Communist Party’s secret annual meeting there, fearing the vehicles could send sensitive video to the US.
BYD electric cars include the Atto 3, Han, Yuan and Tang (pictured)
BYD currently has 19 models in China – including vans – and will select the ‘right’ one for Europe. AM reports.
Other partners of the Chinese company for the UK launch include Arnold Clark, Lookers and LSH Auto UK.
As part of the new partnership, Pendragon will open BYD showrooms in Birmingham and Milton Keynes, which will be followed by a flagship showroom in Mayfair later this year.
Some of the other latest BYD models include the ‘Han’, ‘Yuan’ and ‘Tang’, which may soon hit UK showrooms alongside the Atto 3.
Berman said BYD’s expansion into Britain will help it achieve its ambitious goal of increasing sales of electric vehicles for environmental and health reasons.
The government is banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to help eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and reach the 2050 net-zero emissions target.
“It is a privilege and an honor to be a vital part of BYD’s introduction to the UK market,” said Berman.
“We are confident that our new EV partner will excite motoring fans across the country.
“As we move closer to the government’s 2030 EV plan and UK motorists’ hunger for greener vehicles, the launch of our first all-electric showrooms is a special moment in Pendragon’s history.”
Explained: The UK’s net zero emissions target
A target set by the government in June 2019 requires the UK to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May had announced the target, saying the plans were ambitious but crucial to protecting the planet for future generations.
The move will require massive changes, such as more renewable electricity generation, phasing out new gasoline and diesel cars by at least 2035, and a 20 percent reduction in beef and lamb consumption.
“The UK kickstarted the industrial revolution, which has been responsible for economic growth around the world, but also increased emissions,” said Energy and Clean Growth Minister Chris Skidmore at the time.
“We are once again leading the world by becoming the first major economy to pass new laws to reduce emissions to zero by 2050, while remaining committed to growing the economy – putting clean growth at the center of our modern industrial strategy. ‘
Net zero means that any emissions are offset by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as planting trees or using technology such as carbon capture and storage.