Who needs soap operas when you’ve got the auto industry? One Chinese automaker is providing enough gossip, misdirection and sneaky dealings to keep script writers happy for years. 

Despite officially killing off its F3e electric car last week, Chinese battery firm turned electric vehicle manufacturer Build Your Dreams (BYD) has confirmed that it will be bringing the all-electric e6 crossover vehicle to the U.S. by the end of 2012. 

We’re not holding our breath. BYD had promised that U.S. spec versions would be for sale by 2010.

Best known for its multi-billionaire shareholder Warren Buffet, BYD hasn’t had it easy in the past few months. Allegations of industrial espionage and charges of building a factory on land zoned for farming have kept the firm busy in the courts.  Its expensive F3DM plug-in hybrid hasn’t fared well in its domestic market either, a fact BYD blames on lack of governmental support for plug-in vehicles. 

But why is the e6 delayed by more than a year? 

BYD e6 concept

BYD e6 concept

Some sources close to BYD have claimed that the reason is due to alleged patent infringement. Earlier this year consumer electronics giant Sony filed a lawsuit accusing BYD of infringing two of its battery-related patents in Japan and has already had its famous VAIO notebooks cloned by BYD.

Talking to The Wall Street Journal, Stella Li, BYD’s senior vice president and head of U.S. operations denied this rumor, citing a more practical reason for delays. 

According to Li, the delay to getting the e6 into the U.S. has nothing to do with crash tests, build quality or even patent infringement.  It was simply that the rear passenger space was too cramped. 

Explaining that the battery pack was stored under the seat, Li explained that the company had worked hard to make the rear seats roomier, by modifying the battery pack. 

This could easily explain the drop in range we’ve seen quoted for the car as well as justify the drop in battery pack capacity from an original claimed 72 kilowatt-hour battery pack to one of just 48 kilowatt-hours. 

BYD e6 concept

BYD e6 concept

Despite the drop in battery pack size, if the BYD makes it to the U.S. it would hold the longest range and largest battery pack of any five seat electric car of its type. 

In keeping with a change in company direction from personal transport to mass transit, BYD also announced that it was working with the city of Los Angeles to bring electric busses to the city’s bus fleet as part of a test program. 

BYD has already proven it can talk the talk when it comes to electric vehicles, but until the claimed 50 e6 fleet cars and pilot electric busses are traveling the streets of Southern California we think many will remain skeptical of the Chinese firm with big aspirations. 

[The Wall Street Journal]