The latest registration figures show that 21,705 new battery electric cars were registered in Ireland so far this year. That’s an 18% market share, up from 14% last year, while diesel car sales are sliding down by 4%.

Taking a modest 0.39% slice of this growing electric car market is Ireland’s newest car brand, the all-electric Buy Your Dreams (BYD). These Chinese-built cars are distributed in Ireland by one of the country’s longest-standing, independent motor importing companies, Motor Distributors Ireland, a company that is also Ireland’s importer for Mercedes-Benz cars, vans, and trucks.

With a single BYD Atto 3 model on the Irish market, soon to be joined by the Dolphin model, I set about a challenge to see how long a journey I could plan running on electric-only power. I took that challenge to Malin Head, Ireland’s most northerly point and used local public chargers along the way on my leisurely journey to north Donegal.

The BYD Atto 3 is a mid-size SUV and from a side and front perspective it’s not a standout design. So it fits in comfortably in terms of size, as a competitor for the likes of the popular Nissan Qashqai (which uses a petrol electric drive system).

The modern interior design and dash area of the BYD Atto 3 is characterised by a large screen that rotates to give you either a landscape or portrait view.

What is BYD? BYD is claimed to be the world’s leading manufacturer of new energy vehicles and power batteries. The huge Chinese company, with 28 years of experience, has developed unique battery technology that claims to offer improved levels of safety, durability, and performance, as well as better use of battery space in the car.

Over 3.5m BYD cars have been sold to date.

BYD has developed what it calls the blade battery system. This battery uses lithium iron phosphate (LFP) as its cathode material which claims to offer higher levels of safety than conventional lithium-ion batteries.

They claim better efficiency and longer range as further benefits of the blade battery, providing more power density for optimum performance and efficiencies, including faster charging and faster acceleration.

You would expect to find lots of free space under the bonnet but its pack with electric control systems in place of a conventional engine, while the car’s batteries are located under the vehicle.

This battery power gives the car a range rating of 420km on a full charge and the capacity for fast acceleration. I put that to the test on my drive to Donegal, starting with a comfortable 99% battery power. It was planned as a leisurely drive, so we took the scenic route, via Sligo and Donegal town.

That required a short charging coffee stop in Carrick-on-Shannon and a longer fast charge boost at Sligo railway station so ensure a non-stop final run to Buncrana on the Inishowen Peninsula.

The BYD Atto 3 test car was fitted with Continental 235/50 R18 tyres on alloy wheels that minimise wind and road noise effect.

This is not the typical journey that electric cars are expected to do. The average driving distance per day is now well less than 100km, so my challenge was far from typical at 340km over a full day.

This was within the battery capacity of the BYD Atto 3, but there is comfort in having battery power on hand in an electric car, because I had anticipated through the ESB Networks app that Buncrana was home to only slow chargers.

There was some comfort in knowing that there were two public chargers in the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue’s hometown of Carndonagh

The following day after an early morning charge boost in Buncrana it was time for the final leg to Malin Head.

There was some comfort in knowing that there were two public chargers in the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue’s hometown of Carndonagh. So, the journey back from Malin to Buncrana required another comfort boost.

Overall, during those five days with the BVD Atto 3, I covered 1,269km and spent €120 on battery charging. That equates to a running cost of about 9c/km. This made the journey competitive relative to a diesel-powered car, which would typically have a range of over 1,000km on a full 60-litre tank and would have cost me about €130 at the pumps at today’s prices.

What you have to factor in with an electric car is the charging time each day, especially when you are away from home and where fast chargers are scarce. And that’s the inconvenient part.

You need to plan all longer journeys and you need to drive at a speed to maximise battery life.

The BYD Atto 3 is a mid-size SUV with a battery powered electric drive system that gives a range of over 400km and has powerful acceleration. Entry prices are competitive and start at €39,078 or £36,490 in N Ireland.

My experience is that this driving speed needs to be capped at 100km/hr, so you’ll also need to plan a little extra time for your journey.

The good news is that we got to Malin Head and the photos are there to prove it. And, yes, we got there and back. The journey was very worthwhile for the beautiful scenery that Donegal provides.

I’m not sure that we need screens as big as this and I feel that they tend to dominate the car

Now to focus on the BYD Atto 3 itself, the car is modern in terms of interior styling with a large centre screen for sat-nav and other information, that rotates at the press of a button from portrait to landscape format.

I’m not sure that we need screens as big as this and I feel that they tend to dominate the car.

There is a smaller screen behind the steering wheel which I would have liked to be bigger with more clear text size. The car has three driving modes, Eco, Normal and Sport, and obviously I lived in the Eco mode for all of my driving. The Sport mode is powerful and exciting in terms of acceleration.

Speed limit sign

I found that the speed limit sign detection system was not always working. I’m not sure if that was a function of the signs, but its function was erratic.

The Apple CarPlay system didn’t always engage as easily as in other cars, but I got a handle on it all the same.

The BYD Atto 3 has achieved all the latest EuroNCAP safety ratings with a five-star result in 2022. It came out especially strong in terms of whiplash protection. There are loads of safety features included in the package and it is relatively price-competitive at €39,078 or £36,490 in Northern Ireland and includes six years’ warranty and eight years’ warranty on the battery.

The BYD Atto 3 is a solid feeling and comfortable car to drive, especially on the rural Donegal roads, which are itself a unique test. The seating was firm but not hard and after the slightly shorter and more direct journey home via Tyrone and Monaghan, I felt relaxed and confident about the car.

Specifications: BYD Atto 3.

Battery size/engine: 60kWh battery.

Engine power: 150kW/204bhp.

Engine torque: 228 Nm.

0 – 100km/hr: 7.3 seconds.

Economy: 15.6kWh/100km.

Charging time 0 to 100% home: 9 hours 42 mins.

Charging time 0 to 100% DC fast: 80 minutes.

CO2 rating: 0g/km.

Road tax annual: €120.

Main service: 12 months.

Euro NCAP rating: five-star (2022).

Boot space: 440/1,338 litres.

Towing capacity: 1,000kg.

Kerb weight: 1,750kg.

Warranty: six years or 150,000km.

Battery warranty: eight years or 200,000km.

Entry price: €39,078 or £36,490 in Northern Ireland.