BYD Han first drive: A sleek introduction to a growing name in foreign EVs

BYD’s EVs may not be sold in the United States, but that wasn’t about to stop me from getting my hands on one. As the (self-proclaimed) resident expert on Chinese EV automakers here at Electrek, I felt a civic duty to you readers to get behind the wheel of the BYD vehicle, in this case a 2021 Han EV and report my initial thoughts about a brand that is quickly expanding en route to becoming a household name. Join me on my journey through sunny Southern California during my first driving experience with BYD.

Quick background. BYD, short for “Build Your Dreams,” is a Chinese manufacturing conglomerate founded in 1995, of which its BYD Auto subsidiary followed eight years later. With two decades of automotive experience under its belt, BYD Auto only recently built its final combustion vehicle, leaning further into its current status as one of the world’s largest plug-in EV manufacturers.

BYD’s full embrace of electrification has helped deliver a growing lineup of two separate series of EVs in the Chinese market, including the Han luxury sedan. Most recently, the automaker has looked to expand the global access of its all-electric products as well.

In the summer of 2022, BYD Auto shared plans to begin selling its EVs in the Japanese market followed by a vow of future EV deliveries in Germany and Sweden just over a week later. Other markets have been announced since including Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, and, most recently, the UK.

To support its growing sales footprint overseas, BYD shared its intentions for at least one, if not two, manufacturing facilities in Europe. The company recently stated it’s more likely to build its own plant rather than inherit one from another automaker like Ford, for instance.

One of the EV models that will be a key offering in BYD’s expansion into Europe will be the Han sedan, and although it may not be for sale in the US, its North American team was able to get us access to one to try out. Here are my impressions.

The Han EV is BYD’s mid-size luxury sedan offering

Let’s start off with some specs so you have an idea of what I was working with during my week with the BYD Han. Unfortunately, because the Han is not sold in the US, I was driving a model built for China that had been adapted for US roads.

So I didn’t have access to all the features the EV has to offer, but was definitely more than able to experience the criteria that truly counts… I just didn’t have navigation. That said, I know my way around the South Bay of California pretty well these days (and also have that iPhone thing as a backup).

Furthermore, my first drive with BYD was in a 2021 version of the Han – once again, not a North American EV, so the company has not gotten a more recent model over to the West Coast yet. Still, the BYD Han had plenty to offer if only as an appetizer to a brand growing on a global scale.

The EV I was loaned was a dual motor, all-wheel-drive configuration powered by a 76.9 kWh pack featuring BYD’s unique LFP blade batteries. The pack combines for 550 km (341 mi) range (NEDC), and I can contest that actual range was over 300 miles.

As you can see in the images above, my BYD Han came in an “AI Blue” exterior complimented by 19? two-tone aluminum alloy wheels. While its charging standard was GB/T (again, China), one of the coolest parts about the BYD Han’s exterior was its vehicle-to-load (V2L) capabilities. As you can see above, I was able to plug in a coffee maker and have some much needed caffeine to start my day, all powered by the EV itself.

My version of the Han was also the Lux trim, complete with a slew of high-end details, especially when you work your way inside. Check it out:

A sleek, spacious interior and a very smooth drive

Despite being in an EV not necessarily designed for my country, the BYD Han had a lot to offer me as a driver and even more for my passengers. As you can see in the images above, the textiles were a quality caramel leather, extending from the dash all the way back to the rear seats where the passengers can control most of the EV’s functions themselves on their very own touchscreen.

I had no trouble connecting my phone via Bluetooth and listening to my music, although I did find it funny that the system tried to showcase album covers for the bands I was listening to, but they were of Chinese artists that were clearly not a match in the best way.

I particularly enjoyed the air purification system that tells you the quality of the air outside the BYD Han and what the levels are inside the cabin for comparison. I also found the steering wheel buttons intuitive and easy to learn. The center tablet can display horizontally or flip vertically (two years before the Fisker Ocean did it, sorry Henrik), but I found I really didn’t really like the vertical screen. Anyways, how did the BYD Han drive? Let me tell you:

Overall I found the ride of the 2021 BYD Han to be smooth, efficient, and slightly sporty to boot. You can notice the low drag coefficient of 0.233 as the EV seems to cut through passing air resistance, especially as you flip to sport mode and really open it up.

It’s 0-62 mph acceleration in 3.9 seconds is definitely fast, but didn’t knock my socks off. Still, I took it up and down some windy roads and it handled everything with speed and ease. Not to mention a quiet interior, even with the panoramic roof open to get a whiff of that salty ocean air (sorry to those of you in the snow right now, I just had to rub it in).

I found the Han’s camera system to be better than good, offering a rear camera plus side and bird’s-eye looks to ensure nothing gets dinged. Very helpful. The trunk space (410 liters) left a bit to be desired in terms of multiple sets of golf clubs, but for a sedan of its size, it’s adequate. No frunk either as you can see above.

Perhaps everyone is just clueless around me, but I thought driving around in this sleek blue EV would be sure to turn some heads and have people wondering, “what the hell is that?” To my disappointment, that wasn’t really the case. There were definitely some Tesla drivers taking pictures and the occasional double take at a crosswalk though. Perhaps BYD needs to get its name out more in the US!

Overall, I found driving the BYD Han to be quite enjoyable, and you most certainly feel the luxury element when inside it, no matter what seat you’re in. As I’ve mentioned several times on other drives, I prefer really stiff regenerative braking, and the Han didn’t give me that, even on its highest setting, but the rest of its performance was above what I’d expect for its price range.

I truly appreciate the opportunity I had to test out an EV so rare (non-existent, really) for this market and get my first BYD drive off my checklist. I’m looking forward to comparing the Han to plenty more BYD EV drives as the company continues to expand in 2023 and beyond. Until then!

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