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Skywell electric SUV coming to Australia as new cheaper Tesla Model Y rival

An Australian company is preparing to import a new EV SUV from a fresh Chinese car brand, with the promise of Tesla Model Y space at a budget price.

Skywell – an emerging Chinese car maker – is preparing a new mid-size electric SUV destined for Australia late this year or early next year as the next challenger to price-leading electric vehicles from the likes of BYD and GWM.

Imported by Australian company EV Automotive, the 4698mm-long SUV is a similar size to a Tesla Model Y or Hyundai Ioniq 5, but is planned to be priced from less than $50,000 drive-away.

It will become the most affordable vehicle in its size category – by more than $15,000 – and will even undercut the cheapest versions of the smaller BYD Atto 3 and Hyundai Kona Electric, which start from about $51,000 and $57,000 drive-away respectively.

The SUV – sold as the Skywell ET5 overseas, but expected to be branded as the EV Automotive EVA 5 locally – is the first passenger vehicle from Skywell, which otherwise specialises in vans, buses and light trucks.

The Australian distributor, EV Automotive, has been in operation for around five years, selling cargo van and passenger bus versions of the Skywell EC11 –a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter look-a-like.

Alongside the Skywell SUV, the importer is also planning to introduce a city-sized 'EC1' electric van and light truck – sold as the Victory overseas – to Australia in early 2025.

"We're aware that the brand is relatively unknown, so we have modest targets for the first year. Whilst we homologate the vehicle and get it ready for the roads here we're collecting expressions of interest," EV Automotive CEO Jack Puzin told Drive of the Skywell SUV.

"If the planets align, we'll have vehicles available for sale at the end of this year, however, it's [more] likely we'll have vehicles for sale early next year."

Mr Puzin said the Skywell SUV would be sold through a 'direct sales model' at fixed, non-negotiable prices, similar to BYD and Tesla.

The importer does not yet have any showrooms, and has been selling its earlier Skywell-built 'EC11' vans directly to businesses, though Mr Puzin said it intends to open showroom locations after the initial batch of vehicles is sold.

"The direct sales model was built on the vans ... and it was pretty straightforward to pick a vehicle up from a central point," he told Drive.

"[For] the first few [SUV] customers we have, we're doing an introductory price, [and an] introductory batch of vehicles so that will be handled with kid gloves. They'll have special treatment and will be invited to drive days, etc.

"Once we're up and running so-to-speak, we will have plans to expand our current business model to have what the general public expect, and that is somewhere to see the vehicle, somewhere to test drive a vehicle and somewhere to pick it up from."

He said the target is to sell "thousands of vehicles" in the second and third years of having the Skywell SUV in Australia.

As with EV Automotive's Skywell vans, servicing will occur through the Mycar network of workshops – formerly known as Kmart Tyre and Auto.

Fellow Chinese brand BYD uses the Mycar network, though in recent months it has scaled back its focus in favour of in-house service centres at its own dealerships, as it looks to grow its sales in Australia.

"We're already here, we're already trading. We're already an established business. [We're] bringing the Skywell SUV into Australia through a direct sales model that we've already established, with established support procedures and support systems," the executive said.

The SUV will initially be sold under the EV Automotive brand – and is likely to be named EVA 5 – but the boss of the local importer said it is planned to roll out the Skywell name in the "short to medium term".

Two of the three variants of the Skywell SUV – or EVA 5 – will use a 72kWh battery with a 400km claimed driving range, while the top-of-the-range model is planned to claim 490km from an 86kWh battery.

In overseas markets, all models are powered by a 150kW front electric motor for a 0-100km/h acceleration time of 7.9 seconds, according to Skywell.

The SUV measures 4698mm long overall, 1908mm wide, 1696mm tall, and 2800mm long between the front and rear wheels – about 50mm shorter nose to tail, 70mm narrower and 70mm taller than a Tesla Model Y, on a 90mm-shorter wheelbase.

Each variant will offer a different level of standard equipment, with the circa-$50,000 drive-away price – which can be locked in if buyers reserve their interest on the EV Automotive website – intended for the cheapest model.

However, not all advanced safety features may be standard on every variant, unless it is needed to achieve a top safety rating from ANCAP or its Euro NCAP counterpart.

Mr Puzin said the SUV is "around now, getting crash-tested in Europe," but did not say if it is expected to earn a five-star score.

"The crash-testing results predisposes some of the decision making we're gonna make, because if more safety features need to be built into the base model, then we'll include those, which affects the price of the vehicle," he said.