The next morning we zipped over to the Zhuhai International Circuit, the perfect location to unleash the upcoming BYD Seal on track. A bold sign challenged us to sign our names, cementing our status as BYD’s exclusive media guests. Professional racer Andy Yan then led an in-depth briefing, prepping us for hot laps in the all-new sports sedan.Part of BYD’s global push, the Seal targets rivals like the Tesla Model 3 with four-door coupe styling and an “unknown ocean” design theme. Details like rear water droplet graphics and taillight waves reinforce the nautical inspiration, while an aggressive front end channels momentum and motion. Build quality seems superb, benefitting from BYD’s vertically integrated production allowing in-house component manufacturing. This should minimize supply chain delays, with customers potentially receiving cars just weeks after ordering.The Seal rides on BYD’s versatile new e-Platform 3.0 architecture, also underpinning the Atto 3 and Dolphin EVs. However, it pioneers innovative CTB or “cell-to-body” battery integration, stitching modules directly into the car’s structure. This forms an 11cm-tall blade battery floor, hugely boosting 40,500Nm/deg torsional rigidity over the industry’s 25,000Nm/deg average. Packaging and dynamics improve too, despite range-topping AWD versions tipping the scales at 2,185kg.
Our final day took us behind the scenes at BYD’s global headquarters in Shenzhen. Resembling an electronics campus, the expansive site houses multiple factories and even high-rise staff apartments linked by a special SkyShuttle monorail system developed in-house. Since launching its first commercial SkyRail route in 2017, BYD now fields inquiries worldwide about emissions-free mass transit solutions.
Founded in 1995 focused on batteries, BYD pivoted towards automotive in 2003 with an intriguing vertical integration strategy. The company now manufactures an astonishing array of components for top smartphone OEMs from Huawei to Samsung. BYD builds up to 90% of metal frames for certain Huawei phones, even handling complete processing and assembly for partners. This nimble flexibility also enabled BYD to construct new production lines for 50 million protective masks per month during COVID-19 lockdowns!
Piloting the 530hp/670Nm AWD Seal around Zhuhai Circuit, its hardware certainly seemed up to the task. Beyond the 82.5kWh LFP battery, highlights included double wishbone/multi-link suspension with adaptive dampers, beefy 4-piston front calipers, and Continental SportContact 7 tires. Accelerating off the line, power delivery precisely matched throttle inputs for an uncannily natural EV experience. BYD credits its intelligent torque vectoring tech, monitoring conditions 300x faster than before to prevent slipping while optimizing dynamics.
Charging and daily livability reinforce the Seal’s usability and quality too. 150kW DC fast charging reaches 30-80% in just 26 minutes, while 11kW AC charging makes overnight top-ups easy. Heating utilizes an advanced heat pump effective from -30°C to +60°C, while built-in UV protection keeps cabin temperatures comfortable without blasting the A/C.Interview and Departure
As an uplifting final meal catered by BYD’s incredible in-house culinary team concluded our adventure, we left Shenzhen grateful for the access and insight gained into this rapidly evolving company. From modest battery builder to robust vertically integrated conglomerate, BYD’s widening global imprint seems poised to reshape mobility markets worldwide thanks to competitive economies of scale and their rich ecosystem supporting innovation. If the polished BYD Seal is any indication, the brand’s broadening vehicle portfolio will undoubtedly excite enthusiasts while serving daily transportation needs. This trip provided merely a glimpse of BYD’s possibilities on the road ahead.
After a long flight, we finally touched down at Hong Kong International Airport, eager to begin our Chinese automotive adventure. Crossing the impressive 55km Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, the longest sea crossing in the world, we arrived in Zhuhai City. Checking into the sleek InterContinental Zhuhai hotel, we freshened up before an exquisite welcome dinner filled with succulent crustaceans and seafood delicacies.
Later, we joined our BYD hosts for a preview detour to the iconic Zhuhai Opera House, its futuristic “Sun and Moon Shells” design mimicking the ebb and flow of ocean waves. We also popped into a BYD showroom, discovering mostly their practical “Dynasty Series” cars for sale rather than the flashy “Ocean Series” models we'd come to test drive. Still, the excitement was palpable as we turned in early, eager for Day 2.
Inside, the Seal blends high-tech and high-quality with welcome simplicity versus the controversial Tesla Model 3 overhaul. The conventional layout includes a digital dashboard, head-up display, rotating central touchscreen, plenty of physical buttons and even steering column stalks. Quilted synthetic leather abounds, joined by suede, more leatherette and satin-finish plastics. Thoughtful luxury fills the cabin, technology enhancing rather than dominating the ambiance. Stretching 2,940mm, the wheelbase unpacks segment-leading rear legroom. Our hosts also highlighted the glass sunroof spanning the entire roof, specially treated to prevent UV heat buildup. As Typhoon Koinu drenched Zhuhai during our visit, we made a note to verify these claims back home!
No BYD visit would be complete without the famous nail penetration test on their pioneering blade batteries. Despite brutal stabbing, modules emitted no smoke or fire with surface temperatures around 30-60°C. In contrast, a conventional EV battery sparked violent flames above 500°C when subjected to the same abuse.
Now applying their battery and electronics expertise towards vehicles, BYD’s efforts are paying off with segment-leading range, safety and quality. Beyond passenger EVs, the company has installed over 1.7 GWh of clean energy storage worldwide since entering the utility segment in 2010. Whether warehouses demanding reliable backup power or remote villages deploying solar microgrids, BYD technology helps enable sustainable progress globally.
Sure enough, the Seal carved corners with precision and poise belying its weight. Surgical steering and balanced 50:50 weight distribution inspired confidence pushing the limits. Strong regenerative braking on its highest setting proved track-friendly without major intervention. Quiet and refined the Seal remained, no squeaks or rattles marring the precision luxury environment.
Following the thrilling track session, we sat down with BYD’s Liu Xueliang, Eagle Zhao and Calvin Sze-Tho. Upcoming right-hand drive models are coming, as BYD expands its Malaysian dealer network towards a 2024 goal of 20 nationwide outlets. Over a lingering dinner with BYD’s global media contingent, tantalizing conversations hinted at future technology transfers to loveable classics...but those visions must remain dreams for now.