BYD Starts Selling All-Electric E6 In China

By Danny King October 28, 2011

China-based automaker BYD started offering its battery-electric e6 SUV to the general public in China, marking the first long-range all-electric vehicle to be offered to the masses in that country. The e6, which has been available for fleet purchases for some time, is priced at 369,800 yuan (about $57,000), though Chinese government subsidies bring the out-of-pocket cost down to about $38,000, BYD said in a statement. The five-passenger e6 (below), which have accumulated more than 3.8 million miles as part of the taxi fleet in Shenzhen, China, has a single-charge range of more than 190 miles, or about double that of the all-electric Nissan Leaf. BYD is working with utility company China Southern Grid to install home-based vehicle-charging cabinets for the e6, which uses iron-phosphate batteries for its all-electric powertrain.

China BYD e6 Debut.jpgShenzhen-based BYD, whose investors include Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett, is looking to capitalize on a Chinese auto market where sales of electric vehicles are expected to surge because of government subsidies and a rapidly growing middle class. China's annual electric-vehicle sales will increase to about 554,000 vehicles in 2015 from less than 33,000 last year, and the country will overtake Japan as the largest electric-vehicle maker in the Asia Pacific region, Pike Research, a market research and consulting firm specializing in clean technology markets, said in a recent report.

To that end, BYD and Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG are on schedule to produce the prototype of their first battery-electric vehicles in China next spring despite recent layoffs and production delays by BYD. BYD and Daimler formed the 50-50 joint venture last year. Additionally, BYD earlier this week opened its U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles with promises of bringing 150 new jobs and a new crop of clean vehicles to the city.

BYD investors and company executives are hoping that both the U.S. launch and e6 sales to the Chinese public will help reverse a profit plunge resulting from declining vehicle sales in China. For the first half of the year, BYD's profit dropped 89 percent from a year earlier to 275 million yuan ($43.1 million) on a combination of rising costs and an 11-percent drop in revenue. Last year, BYD sold 519,800 vehicles, well short of the goal of 800,000 sales the company had set for itself; it sold just 232,400 vehicles during the first half of this year.

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