Chinese automaker BYD, or "Build Your Dreams" has big plans. They had a strong presence at the recent 2011 Geneva Motor Show with a lineup of production electric cars both present and future, and the company intends to break into the U.S. market, never an easy task for a maker with little brand recognition.
Nevertheless, the U.S. sales are expected to begin in late 2011 or early 2012
, initially with the F3DM plug-in hybrid sedan. Whilst unconfirmed, BYD's E6 all-electric crossover would be a logical progression.
Two of the inoffensive-looking crossovers were on display in Geneva, one in production guise and the other painted in a red and white taxi color scheme, one of 50 vehicles operating as taxis in Shenzhen, the home of BYD's headquarters.
Auto journalist Mark Andrews has driven the car for the China Car Times
, and the car earns a cautious commendation.
Looks can be a subjective matter and whilst Mark describes it as "unique", we'd be more tempted to call it "generic". Next to recent electric cars it's a fairly average design, but then it has been created for purpose rather than as an object of desire. Build isn't as impressive though, with some panel gaps finger-wide.
The test car's interior was simple and production models are expected to gain satellite navigation and steering wheel controls. It only offers two airbags though, and there have been no official crash tests so safety is an unknown quantity. Space is described simply as "good" though Mark wasn't sure of the seats' long-term comfort. The boot isn't great either, largely thanks to the amount of space taken up by the battery pack.
On the other hand, the battery pack does give the E6 a near 200 mile range, double that of the 2011 Nissan Leaf. Mark only drove the car in Eco mode, and described the acceleration as sluggish - certainly not something we've experienced with the Leaf. It's a mark of confidence however that BYD has chosen taxi drivers to trial the car, for whom performance in crowded cities is less of a concern than a long range and reliable components.
Ultimately, the E6 is described as a "one trick pony". It works well as a taxi, but whether you'd want to own one or not is a different matter.
It's sure to come down to price too. If and when it arrives in the U.S, it would need to be very competitively priced to tempt customers away from cars like the Leaf, especially if equipment levels aren't augmented. Buyers aren't averse to choosing vehicles with no prior brand identity - after all, Lexus has been a huge success and it effectively appeared from nowhere - but the product has to be good.
Does the BYD E6 fit the bill? We're not so sure - prove us wrong, BYD.
[China Car Times
via The Independent