Chinese Carmaker's Ro/Ro Arrives in EU, Delivering New Competition

BYD Explorer No. 1 departs on its maiden voyage (BYD)
Image courtesy BYD

Published Feb 27, 2024 2:25 PM by The Maritime Executive

Chart-topping Chinese EV manufacturer BYD has completed its first in-house ro/ro shipment to Europe. On Tuesday, the brand new BYD Explorer No. 1 arrived at a pier in Bremerhaven carrying 3,000 competitively-priced electric cars for the European market.

Explorer No. 1 is owned by Japan's Taihei Kaiun and operated by London-based Zodiac Maritime. The Chinese-built ship is LNG dual-fuel powered and can carry up to 7,000 cars at a time (though far less than that on its maiden voyage).

BYD is committed to solving a global bottleneck in ro/ro capacity by taking seaborne transport in-house. For the long term, it is creating a reduced-ro/ro supply chain by setting up car factories in the same regions as its customers. It is in various stages of planning for new manufacturing plants in Thailand, Hungary, Brazil and Mexico. If it launches a Mexican factory, it could be able to use the Trump-era United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to access the American market.

BYD is making a splash with tent-pole ultraluxury models, and the most expensive appear designed to compete more with Ferrari than with Cadillac. The BYD Yangwang brand's $230,000 supercar can go from 0-60 mph in 2.4 seconds, rivaling a top-end Tesla, and it has all the curves of a two-seat European supercar. 

At the bottom rung, its cheapest electric commuter car sells for less than $14,000 new. It is designed to compete head-to-head with gasoline-fueled cars on price, and is selling well in overseas markets (370,000 sold last year). Auto industry analysts view BYD and its compatriots as an existential threat to North American carmakers, which have struggled to turn a profit on EVs.