First Drive: BYD e6
To give some background, BYD, an acronym for Build Your Dreams, has been involved in the domestic automotive industry for ten of its eighteen year history. But it’s growing, with ventures including Denza, a Chinese-market electric vehicle brand formed in partnership with Daimler, and plans to export its electric bus around the world.
The e6 is already racking up miles as a private hire vehicle in China. There are 800 being used as taxis in Shenzhen, and more being rolled out in Hong Kong. While BYD has ambitions to bring its conventionally-powered cars here eventually, its first steps into Europe will be a widespread trial with private hire and government fleets.
In the UK, 50 will have been rolled out by the end of the year, 10 of which are being added to the GreenTomatoCars environmentally-friendly taxi fleet based in London. To date there are no European dealers, so sales will be direct from its regional headquarters in Belgium, but the e6 is available in right-hand drive, which is vital if it wants to compete in the UK.
It has the makings of being a rather good taxi. Looking a little like a late-spec Fiat Multipla, the e6 has colossal interior space. There’s room for five, with huge headroom and a plentiful boot. Materials are not as soft to touch as European alternatives but it feels rugged enough to take the rigours of a life on a private hire fleet.
The drivetrain was developed by in-house. It uses a 101bhp electric motor, with a lithium-ion battery under the floor. Fast charging is claimed to fill the latter to capacity within two hours, offering a range of 186 miles. That’s more than many smaller electric cars can muster, and BYD is claiming it will retain 75% of that capacity after 4,000 charge cycles based on data logged from 62 million on-road miles.
But there is a trade-off. The e6 weighs a staggering 2.4 tonnes – roughly the same as an Audi Q7 4.2 TDI quattro – and with so little power it’s quite slow off the mark. But the brakes, assisted by the electric motor regenerating power back to the battery, are reassuringly sharp and quick to respond, and wind noise at speed is low for an apparently unaerodynamic shape.
Sales ambitions are low for the e6 in the UK, but this is a car perfectly suited to London where it should have no problems covering a daily cycle without needing a recharge. This won’t be a common part of the British road network, but it’s a great way for BYD to carve out its own niche in a competitive market.
For inner-city routes, and for companies with charging facilities at their headquarters, the e6 has a lot to offer. Its electric range is long enough not to compromise on usability, interior space is generous and the e6 feels robust enough to be worked hard.
Type: Battery electric vehicle
Electric range: 186 miles
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 0g/km
Charging Port: Type 2 AC & CHAdeMo DC