BYD’s Plug-in Cars Face Technical Hurdles

The race to provide the world with affordable plug-in cars has a wild card: China’s BYD, the car and battery company backed by investment guru Warren Buffet. A combination of powerful forces—an enormous burgeoning domestic market, battery expertise, and low cost production—gives credence to the company’s plans to sell millions of hybrid and electric cars within just a few years. That’s if BYD can overcome its challenges and technical hurdles. And that’s a big If.

The Wall Street Journal’sChina Realtime Report” blog is reporting that BYD’s e6 all-electric car is hardly ready for the US market—despite plans to bring the vehicle to the US next year. An unnamed “tech chief of a global automaker” recently drove the car, and said he was ‘truly astonished that they plan to sell such a half-baked car” in China later this year. He said the ride was “rough” and the handling was “squishy.” If the quality problems persist, BYD will have a hard time selling the e6 at the anticipated price of US $45,000.

The Wall Street Journal added, “BYD doesn’t have a good track record in keeping promises on product launches, and some industry observers suspect there may be technical glitches plaguing its green cars, which include a plug-in hybrid car called the F3DM, in addition to the e6.” Last December, BYD became the first automaker in the world to sell a plug-in hybrid car, the F3DM, but sold fewer than 100 through August, according to Gasgoo, a website reporting on the Chinese auto industry.

Yet, the promises keep coming.

100+ Miles on a 10-minute Charge

The
BBC reported
last week that BYD’s says its electric car is capable of going 250 miles on a single one-hour rapid charge—or about half that range with a 10-minute charge. That would be a quantum leap over five-passenger electric cars expected in the coming years (and/or would require a rapid-charging infrastructure that could be many years away). The electric highway is littered with companies who failed by over-promising and under-delivering. BYD is running a similar risk, compounded by the fact that it’s a public company that could be accused of misleading investors.

BYD may currently be struggling to bring an affordable plug-in hybrid or electric car to the US in a timely manner, but industry observers warn not to write them off. They point to the rapid ascent of Japanese and Korean automakers that were disregarded by Detroit automakers, which scoffed at poor quality. Vehicles can improve fairly rapidly, but the key to delivering viable plug-in cars is the battery. An unidentified executive at a major European car manufacturer told the BBC that China intended to become the world leader in battery technology. “If that’s what China wants, it will happen,” he said.


  • ex-EV1 driver

    How is China going to make an electric car until they have a US or European one to copy?

  • Lost Prius to wife

    ex-EV1 driver, they built the one that they have now without having a US or European one to copy. Oh, that’s right! Their tech chief of a global automaker said he was ‘truly astonished that they plan to sell such a half-baked car” in China later this year. He said the ride was “rough” and the handling was “squishy.” Maybe that is the reason, the lack of something to copy. Once they do have something to copy, I wonder if they will dump the designs that they now have.

  • tw8s

    Seems odd that the tech chief didn’t say anything about the characteristics of the electric motivation of the vehicle, or the dutiful reporter ignored that part. Was the chief picking on the ride and handling to divert attention away from a capable competitive drive system? (and btw: there are plenty of good ride/handling cars available for copying.)

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Good point tw8s. I certainly hope the US automakers don’t get complacent based upon that report.

  • Dan L

    If BYD really has a lead in battery technology, they are destroying it by tying their batteries to their lousy cars. My guess is that their batteries are not really that great, and they are using their even worse cars to draw attention away from the fact.

  • David

    Hmmm.. Will they be the next Hyundai (initial quality problems now overcome) or the next Yugo (initial quality problems that only got worse)?

  • Douglas Hall

    Remember – that BYD is a battery company first and a car company second. It’s the new technology that will make a difference in the ‘electric car race’, not the comfy ride.

    If they can demonstrate a better technology, they can

    a) make cars with it
    The ride and the handling can be improved quite easily and rapidly.
    Toyota didn’t sell 1 million Prius units because of the sweet ride.
    Say nothing of the original Honda Civic….

    and they can
    b) sell the tech to other companies,
    Which might be where the real money lies.

  • Stephen Wilhelm

    The whole game, in my opinion, for BYD is how good their batteries are, not how good their cars are. If their batteries perform as advertised, they will eventually produce good cars or they will sell batteries to another car company like VW with whom they have an agreement. They will recover from a crappy car and the bad press that comes with it.

    So, how good is the BYD battery? I have not seen any hard specifications on it. Just the claim that the car can go 250 miles on a charge, and be recharged very quickly.

    Anybody have any hard specifications/proof that the BYD battery is truly a revolution? Also, what is the capacity of the battery in the E6, where is it located in the car, and how much space does it use?

    Why is all this information such a mystery?

  • Wendy Solberg

    My thinking exactly. A certain demographic of the U.S. public will buy anything if the price is right. We could go back to an era of disposable cars…

  • sean t

    I guess BYD may have had a “breakthru” in technology and wants to keep it secret? They’re well known for that.

  • Big Green Chief

    China is currently making rapid progress in materials science, chemistry, and physics. This is largely driven by the explosive growth in research.

    For those who are a little bit more mature, the following article should be of some interest:

    http://www.iwr.co.uk/information-world-review/news/2252431/china-set-supersede-research

    BYD rocks! Warren Buffett is going to make a killing in the long run.

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    The whole game, in my opinion, for BYD is how good their batteries are, not how good their cars are. If their batteries perform as advertised, they will eventually produce good cars or they will sell batteries to another car company like VW with whom they have an agreement. They will recover from a crappy car and the bad press that comes with it.
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