Deaths 'not linked' to electric car design

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 10:58pm


The blast and deaths following the collision of a BYD e6 electric car with a Nissan GTR sports car in Shenzhen in late May were not directly linked to the electric vehicle's design, according to investigators.

But the lead expert on the investigation team said the incident had eroded confidence in the safety of electric cars generally.

Announcing the findings in Shenzhen yesterday, Wu Zhixin, deputy director of the China Automotive Technology and Research Centre, said the incident had dealt a major blow to the mainland's electric car industry.

Wu was the lead expert of the panel investigating the May 26 crash in which the e6 electric taxi travelling at 80km/h burst into flames three seconds after the sports car speeding along at 180km/h slammed into its rear. While the driver of the Nissan was only slightly hurt, the driver and two passengers of the e6 were killed.

'The 2012 [electric vehicle] promotion plan has been halted,[and] the new implementation schedule can only be released after the [final] investigation results are out,' Lu Xiangzheng, the director of the Office of the Shenzhen Energy Conservation and New Energy Automobile Leading Group, said.

Shenzhen has the biggest programme to promote electric cars on the mainland. Some 300 electric taxis and 200 electric buses are on the road in the city of 10 million people. Shenzhen had planned to have 3,000 electric taxis and 1,000 electric buses running by the end of 2015. Across the mainland, 15,000 electric vehicles are in operation.

Daiwa Securities car sector analyst Jeff Chung said the investigators' findings would not have much impact on BYD's sales and profit since only a small share of the company's revenues were from electric cars.

BYD has sold around 1,000 electric cars since the e6 was launched in October, compared with 448,500 combustion-engine cars it sold last year.

'We had been unenthusiastic about the sales potential of electric vehicles due to the heavy weight and high cost of their batteries, which mean they are energy inefficient and have slower braking reaction time,' Chung said.

'The series of explosions and fires involving electric cars both on the mainland and abroad will certainly slow sales.'

He said hybrid cars and diesel cars, which are 30 per cent to 50 per cent more fuel-efficient than vehicles fuelled by petrol, would fill the market gap left by all-electric vehicles.

The central government announced in April a target to raise annual output and sales of all-electric and hybrid electric vehicles to 500,000 units by 2015, rising to 5 million by 2020, Xinhua reported.


The number of electric taxis Shenzhen planned to have running in the city by the end of 2015

- The plan is on hold