Back to News
Electric car from the UK
|BYD says that its new E6 electric car
due out before the end of the year will do 250 miles (400km) on a
This is a very big number. The Tesla electric sports car does almost
as much, but has little room for anything else in the car but the
The E6 is roomy with space for five passengers and a good-sized
boot. The battery tucks under the back seat.
It needs 7-8 hours with a domestic plug to charge the car but BYD -
it stands for Build Your Dreams - says a specially developed fast
charging point with a lead the diameter of a fire hose will fill up
the car in just one hour.
You can get half a charge in only 10 minutes.
If these claims are accurate and if BYD can persuade either the
Chinese government or a Chinese city to install a network of the
fast chargers, then this large hatchback could be the vehicle that
makes the breakthrough for electric cars.
Let us look at the accuracy of the claim first. BYD is already the
world's number two in rechargeable batteries, and for the E6 it is
using a ferrous battery it has developed itself.
There is a reputational risk in exaggerating the claims of a
product. And that could be translated into a legal risk if people
buy shares in the publicly quoted company as a result of misleading
The green group WWF has just appointed the Chinese energy expert Dr
Yang Fuqiang as its head of global solutions. He told BBC News that
he would reserve judgment on BYD's claims.
"If they are true, this is an extraordinary step which will prove
highly significant," he said.
So what about the other question about support for a network of
The Chinese government has spent more than any other on its green
fiscal stimulus and there is supposed to be support for electric
But BYD's Rebecca Wang said that although BYD hoped for
co-operation, none was yet forthcoming.
The E6 will sell for £30,000 and is aimed initially at the
eco-conscious California market. When the price comes down with mass
production, it'll be rolled out properly in China.
Whether the claims are accurate to the letter or not, the E6 is a
marker that China expects to dominate energy storage technologies -
which could become much more important if the world makes a
significant shift towards renewable power.
Even if they are run on coal-fired power, electric cars still
produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a petrol car because
they are inherently more efficient, according to the UK's chief
energy scientist David MacKay.
This efficiency is increased if you can run an automobile fleet on
either off-peak electricity at night or on intermittent power from,
say, wind farms.
I chanced to share lunch recently with the CEO of a major European
car manufacturer. He told me that China intended to become the world
leader in battery technology. "And if that's what [China] wants, it
will happen," he said. Simple as that.
But the question remains if China has the cars to match its
As a car maker, BYD is very much at the "functional" end of the
Chinese market - a farmer's car, my Beijing producer Jasmin called
There may be a risk that BYD's batteries could be undone by poor
BYD's chief executive Wang Chuan-Fu is certainly ambitious, and
money is certainly not a limitation.
Following a huge investment by Warren Buffet, he has just made it to
the top of the Forbes Rich list for China. He is joined at the top
table by another green billionaire, Shi Zhengrong who made a fortune
from the Suntech solar PV firm in just four years.
There is such a buzz about the Clean tech gold rush in China at the
moment that some analysts warn of the possibility of a bubble.
The Climate Group is an international non-profit organisation that
works with governments and businesses with the aim of building a low
It is keen to dispel such pessimism. Yu Jie, its head of research in
Beijing, told BBC News that if the bubble popped, it would only
"Everybody wants to get into clean energy at the moment," she said.
"It can only be for the good. And the ability to attract top
entrepreneurs into this field can only be good for China, which has
often depended on other people's technology in the past."
When we arrived at the BYD plant, the workers were on holiday so
there was no activity to film. And the E6 itself was nowhere to be
But we eventually managed to persuade our hosts that, having
travelled all the way from the UK, we deserved a sneak preview, and
the E6 itself was unveiled.