Cars > Electric

BYD wants you to forget about EV range anxiety

A road trip to Subic and back on a single charge with the Dolphin

Yes, even a small EV like this can make it to Subic and back on a single charge. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

Electric cars are slowly rising in popularity around here, but many potential buyers shy away from making the move to a BEV out of concerns about range anxiety. BYD Philippines has organized an out-of-town media drive to show that an EV isn’t only good for short commutes.

Driving from its flagship showroom in Quezon City to Subic (and back) on a single charge, we got to try out the BYD Dolphin and saw a lot of local journos getting more excited about EVs in the process.

This was the first meaningful interaction I had with the BYD brand. Being a fan of EVs and an EV driver myself, I had read a lot about them but never actually tried any of their products. Being German, I also had some reservations about Chinese new-energy vehicles, and I suspect I’m not the only one.

There was a competitive side to the drive, but the author and his car mates drove it realistically. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

But writing about cars as a job means having to be fair, so I went into this with an open mind. The fact our trip started with a briefing session on how to drive EVs and how they differ from ICE vehicles showed me that we are still early when it comes to battery-powered mobility around here, but that there certainly is growing interest and excitement.

BYD introduced a couple of competitive elements into the drive, pitting the eight cars (with three occupants in each one) against each other in a battle to see who could drive most efficiently.

We didn’t really try to take part in this, and instead just drove the Dolphin pretty much like we would drive any car on a trip up north. Taking turns, we also got to experience it as drivers and as passengers, which helped to get a solid impression of this P1.4-million battery electric vehicle.

And that impression was largely really good, which is kind of what you would expect from a company that sold three million cars last year.

BYD stands out for having unique designs. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

I’m not shy when it comes to testing the build quality of cars, and will frequently pull, press, and squeeze various parts of the interior to see how well everything is put together and if anything comes loose or squeaks.

Nothing did in the Dolphin’s cabin, and the car comes across as pretty solid. Even the doors have a nice ‘plop’ to them when closing. Also, this being an EV and much quieter than an ICE car, you would notice any rattles or noises much more easily while driving, and there really weren’t any.

The Dolphin has a practical and interesting cabin. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

For such a comparatively small car, it’s also quite spacious. A good test was if I could fold my 6’1” frame into any of the seats without feeling cramped, and I had no issues there. Even sitting in the back, I had enough space, which is far from being a given for me in compact cars.

There are loads of storage for phones and other bits, as well as plenty of USB charging ports. Operating the Dolphin is pretty straight forward, and despite having just 95hp, it’s surprisingly nippy thanks to the instant torque of its electric drive system.

It's recommended to not fully charge an EV unless you know you're going out on a long trip. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

BYD also put a lot of effort into its batteries, and I was surprised to learn that the firm claimed that charging the 44.9kWh pack up to 100% every time was not a problem. Many EV owners tend to not do this and only charge to 80% to keep the battery healthier for longer.

BYD claims its power pack is good for at least 5,000 charging cycles, which, if you do the math, means you could charge and discharge it every day for almost 14 years before experiencing any issues. In real life, you won’t be doing this, but the figure means that longevity really shouldn’t be an issue.

This is still enough range to get you to your nearest charger in the city. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

We left QC with a 100% charge and 405km of range on the display, which is also the official figure BYD gives for the car. When we arrived in Subic, we still had 59% left; once back at the dealership, the battery still had 17% of juice, or over 50km of range remaining.

We weren’t the most efficient drivers, though, and others managed to get to Subic with 66% and back to Manila with over 30% charge left. Those are tidy figures for a small EV packed with three passengers.

The carmaker was also keen to point out that it’s cheaper to run an EV than an ICE car, a point I can confirm from personal experience. Next to less maintenance, fuel is also cheaper. BYD gave an example for our trip.

If you had charged up at home using the Meralco home charging tariff, it would have cost you as little as P435.79 to drive to Subic and back.

Like what they all say, it doesn't hurt to try it at least once. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

This trip then was as much about educating local media and content creators, as it was about advertising BYD’s wares.

There are few things not to like about the Dolphin for me. The swivel screen that seems like an unnecessary gimmick, and the horn that according to my better half (who joined me on this trip) is a bit too ‘potpot’ to assert yourself in Manila traffic, but that’s about it.

If you’re looking to get into the EV game and be among the first to experience the many benefits of going electric, then you could do a lot worse than trying out this little machine.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.