Is YOUR car spying on you? Chinese-made EVs set to go on sale in UK

Is YOUR car spying on you? Cheap Chinese-made electric vehicles are set to go on sale in the UK, packed full of sensors that could be used to track your movements

  • Chinese vehicle maker BYD has launched its first vehicle in the UK this month
  • It’s equipped with a 360-degree camera, radar and sensors to assist the driver 
  • READ MORE: China has filled the UK with gadgets that could be used for spying

From apps to smartphones and mobile infrastructure, Chinese technology has infiltrated Britain in recent years. 

But a fresh arrival in the form of electric cars could further expand China’s tech empire while potentially edging out competition from Western manufacturers.

BYD, a vehicle maker based in Shenzhen, has partnered with British car dealership Pendragon to sell its electric vehicle (EV) models in the UK. 

They come equipped with all the latest high-tech features such as 360-degree cameras and sensors to assist the driver and help avoid obstacles. 

But this could stoke fears they could be used to track movements, just like concerns surrounding Chinese phones from the likes of Huawei and apps such as TikTok. 

Electric cars made by Chinese firm BYD have more attractive prices than those from the likes of rival Tesla, owned by Elon Musk and based in California 

BYD’s first electric car to enter the UK market – the Atto 3 – is now available to order with customer deliveries starting this month.

It starts from £36,000, but Pendragon CEO Bill Berman thinks the Chinese firm will bring an affordable EV to Britain that will be as cheap as a Ford Focus – around the £20,000 mark. 

BYD Atto 3: Specs

Range: 200 miles 

Battery: 60 kWh

Acceleration: 0-62 mph in 7 seconds

Price: £36,490 

UK availability: March 2023 

These cheaper BYD models will also be half the cost of EVs sold by Tesla, owned by Elon Musk and based in California

Teslas start from around £50,000 and push well past £100,000 – and this price is a barrier to adoption. 

‘You can look at the average price point for a Ford Focus right now, in the mid to high 20s,’ Berman told the Telegraph. 

‘My take would be they’ll probably be in line with that.’

BYD – which is one of a handful of Chinese brands entering the UK market alongside Great Wall Motor and Chery –makes electric trucks, buses and bicycles as well as passenger cars.

But they’re 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. 

Smart EVs also collect metrics such as route history, vehicle speeds and even local weather, and this data can be hacked and data accessed remotely and shared, as demonstrated by a German programmer who hacked a Tesla last year. 

James Bore, tech expert and security consultant at Bores Group, said smart EVs are as much as a security threat as Chinese-made phones and apps such as TikTok, which was banned from UK government smartphones earlier this month. 

The government has already excluded Chinese tech firm Huawei’s technology 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 come equipped with all the latest high-tech features such as 360-degree camera, radar and sensors to assist the driver and help avoid obstacles

The BYD Atto 3 is equipped with a 150kW motor and accelerates from 0-62 mph in 7.3 seconds 

‘Smart EVs are just as much a security/privacy threat as Chinese phones, smart devices, apps, etc,’ Bore told MailOnline.

From phones to TVs and light bulbs: The very real fears China has filled Britain’s homes with spy gadgets – READ MORE

From apps to smartphones and mobile infrastructure, Chinese technology has infiltrated Britain in recent years

‘China’s not really capable of gathering any more data than, say, Facebook through the same tools,’ Bore told MailOnline.

‘The difference comes down to political opposition and that China’s government is much, much more involved in Chinese companies than US/EU political entities are with their respective companies.

‘Ultimately the focus on China should be taken to highlight how our current technological ecosystem is designed to exploit individual personal data on an industrial scale in order to manipulate people.’ 

Currently, the vast majority of BYD’s vehicles are sold in China apart from a few select export markets such as Bahrain and Moldova, but it now plans to rapidly expand all over Europe.

In China, BYD outsold Tesla by more than five times in the first two months of the year.

The firm has been enticing customers by offering more affordable price tags and shorter delivery windows, as well as all the latest tech gizmos. 

BYD has already denied it equips its trucks with technology that can be used to secretly spy on US citizens and provide data to the Chinese government. 

Following the allegations in 2020, 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 displayed at a car dealership in Shanghai, China, February 3, 2023

‘BYD is driving innovation and partnering with many American start-up ventures in the battle against climate change,’ it told FreightWaves. 

‘It is unfortunate that BYD’s competitors have chosen to use the legislative process to gain a competitive advantage in the market.’ 

Tense relations between Washington and Beijing and President Joe Biden’s move to prioritise home-grown production of EVs and batteries may also prove to be barriers to BYD’s rollout in the US. 

Chinese authorities also appear to have recognised the threat posed by Tesla cars in China, although this has stopped short of an outright ban.

Last year, China banned Teslas in Beidaihe for two weeks when the town hosted the Chinese Communist Party’s secretive annual meeting there, over fears the vehicles could send sensitive video footage to the US. 

BYD electric car models include the Atto 3, Han, Yuan and Tang (pictured)

Currently, BYD has 19 models in China – including vans – and will be selecting the ‘right ones’ for Europe, AM reports. 

Among the Chinese firm’s other partners for the UK launch are Arnold Clark, Lookers and LSH Auto UK. 

As part of the new partnership, Pendragon is opening BYD showrooms in Birmingham and Milton Keynes, which will be followed by a flagship showroom in Mayfair later this year.

Some of the other newest BYD models include the the ‘Han’, ‘Yuan’ and ‘Tang’, which could soon join UK showrooms along with the Atto 3

Berman said the expansion of BYD to Britain will help achieve the ambitious aim of ramping up EV sales for environmental and health reasons. 

The government is banning sales of petrol and diesel cars from 2030, to help eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and achieve its net zero emissions target by 2050.

‘It is a privilege and honour to be a pivotal part of BYD’s launch into the UK market,’ Berman said. 

‘We are certain our new EV partner will excite automotive fans across the country.

‘As we move closer to the government’s 2030 EV plan and British drivers’ appetite for greener vehicles, the launch of our first all-electric showrooms is a special moment in history for Pendragon.’ 

Explained: the UK’s net zero emissions target 

A target set by the government in June 2019 will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. 

Former Prime Minister Theresa May had announced the target, saying the plans were ambitious but crucial for protecting the planet for future generations.

The move will require huge changes such as more renewable electricity generation, phasing out new petrol and diesel cars by at least 2035 and a 20 per cent cut in beef and lamb consumption. 

‘The UK kick-started the Industrial Revolution, which was responsible for economic growth across the globe but also for increasing emissions,’ said said Energy and Clean Growth Minister Chris Skidmore at the time.

‘We’re leading the world yet again in becoming the first major economy to pass new laws to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 while remaining committed to growing the economy – putting clean growth at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy.’    

Net zero means any emissions would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as planting trees or using technology like carbon capture and storage.

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