If you wonder what BYD is up to lately outside of China, electric buses seem to be the Chinese automaker’s thing these days. It is also still hawking its much-maligned e6 pure electric crossover vehicle as a taxi. Development of the dual-mode Qin (the current generation of BYD’s hybrid) seems to be treading water, however. Perhaps BYD, like most Chinese automakers, is waiting for news of what the government subsidies for hybrids will be.
As I blogged about many months ago, BYD is focused on fleets for its electric vehicles here in the U.S. Also, it seems worldwide. “BYD is in no rush to launch U.S. consumer sales,” BYD spokesman Micheal Austin told me via email. “We are finding great success offering our long-range EVs for high-utility fleet applications.”
By high-utility, Austin means long-range so I guess that sentence is a bit redundant. BYD’s website claims a 155 mile range for the Li-iron phosphate battery in its pure electric ebus. It has a 3-hour or 6-hour, or perhaps 5-hour, recharging time depending on the type of charger used. I say perhaps 5-hour because the website cites both 5- and 6-hour times. In any case, that’s nitpicking. Around 5 hours.
BYD has been pretty successful at getting its electric bus into fleets around the world, including one in Quebec in Canada, one in Israel, 10 in Long Beach, California, five in Los Angeles (with an option to buy up to 25), and 35 in Amsterdam.
A few months ago, BYD had the grand opening of a plant to produce electric buses in the city of Lancaster, CA, about an hour east of Los Angeles. BYD’s contracts with Long Beach and Los Angeles use some federal funding so both have a Made in the USA requirement, meaning BYD must source at least 60% of the bus components from the U.S.A. Stella Li, SVP of BYD and head of its North America operations, told me the local content may even higher.
I hear from a friend who works in logistics that BYD has just arranged to ship its first batch of batteries to the U.S. for those buses. She speculates more shipments of other parts will follow. And, other sources in the EV bus industry figure that BYD will likely source the glass, seats, and air conditioners from China. I might add the wheels/rims given China’s large number of rim manufacturers.
BYD may make a decent electric bus. I have always said the ebus was a good-looking bus, at least. Nice interior, too. As usual, I prefer to wait until the buses in international markets have been running for a while until I start gushing over them the way some EV sites have been. But as I have stated before, I hope BYD succeeds with the buses. I like BYD despite the belief by some executives there, whose names will remain unwritten, that I hate the company. Nonetheless, the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
What of the e6 crossover, which is the current incarnation of BYD’s original pure electric vehicle, the e6 sedan? Well, it seems the e6 is also destined for fleets for the time being, as I wrote about last year.
The order form is out there –Austin emailed me one. They are available to order for fleet use here in the U.S. though I do not believe BYD has gotten any orders here. I asked to test drive the latest e6 and Austin said it wasn’t significantly changed from the version I drove a few years ago.
There are e6 crossovers in taxi fleets outside of China, however. There are a few in Hong Kong and Thailand reportedly ordered three last year, though I don’t know if they are actually in use now. Bogota, Columbia also recently ordered 45 e6s as part of its Biotaxi project, according to a press release.
That leaves the Qin dual-mode aka hybrid vehicle. It seems to be in a state of limbo. Perhaps BYD has joined most Chinese automakers in waiting to launch any new electric vehicles or hybrids until the central government issued its overdue updated new energy vehicle subsidy policy. The new policy will reportedly subsidize regular hybrids at a higher rate than the current policy. But no one know.
In any case, the Qin isn’t listed on BYD’s website. BYD showed the Qin, which is the latest generation of its hybrid vehicle, at the Shanghai auto show this year after it debuted at the auto show in Beijing in 2012. Reports appeared in the gullible U.S. press about the Qin being launched in June 2013 with a sub-$30,000 (which I guess was converted from an RMB price the reporter heard somewhere) price tag.
There do seem to be some Qins driving around in South America, based on some comments from BYD execs here in the U.S. But the Qin likely won’t be seen in the U.S. this year or in 2014, said Austin. So not sure if/when it will make an appearance here.
So how is BYD doing in the EV arena? Okay, I’d say. If we look at what it is actually doing now rather than what it said it wanted to do a few years back, BYD seems to be farther along than any other Chinese automaker – or any automaker when it comes to electric buses — in terms of getting its electrified vehicles onto the world market.
I still wish someone would do an independent analysis of BYD’s electric drivetrain, however….
Article by Alysha Webb, a freelance automotive journalist and founder of ChinaEV Blog.