BYD wins order for 50 electric cabs in London in push for global expansion

Mainland carmaker's e6 model will join the fleet of Greentomatocars next year in its global push

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 October, 2012, 4:53am

Mainland carmaker BYD, which is backed by Warren Buffett, won a preliminary order to supply 50 electric cabs to a London-based minicab company, gaining its first foothold in the international market.

BYD's e6, a pure electric car model, will start to join the fleet of Greentomatocars, London's second-largest minicab service company, from the second quarter of next year under a memorandum of understanding signed by the two companies yesterday.

The order is in line with the aim of London mayor Boris Johnson to convert all the minicabs and taxis in the city to zero-emission vehicles by 2020.

BYD initially planned to introduce the e6 to Hong Kong as part of the city's efforts to replace the entire fleet of its 18,000-odd taxis with electric-powered models. But the delivery has been delayed due to a fatal accident involving an e6 taxi in Shenzhen.

As the first green minicab company in London, Greentomatocars kicked off its service with just five Toyota Motor's Prius hybrid minicabs in 2006. Its fleet has now grown to more than 300.

"As a car, we see strong parallels between the e6 of today and the then unfashionable Toyota Prius of 2006," said Jonny Goldstone, managing director of Greentomatocars. "We'd love to do a Prius with the e6, and help propel electric vehicles into the automotive mainstream."

Powered by the lithium-ion phosphate battery designed by BYD, the e6 has a maximum range of 186 miles on a single charge with a top speed of 87 mph.

According to the company's website, the vehicle carries a catalogue price of 369,800 yuan (HK$458,700). Industry veterans said that was at least 13 per cent lower than that of its Japanese counterparts.

The e6 has been in taxi service in Shenzhen for more than two years. BYD plans to add 500 vehicles to the current fleet of 300 e6 cabs in the city as an integral part of Beijing's bigger efforts to put 5 million plug-in hybrids and electric cars on the roads nationwide by 2020.

People have cast doubts on the safety of the e6 when one taxi caught fire following a fatal accident in May. But an investigation showed that the high-speed collision, not the phosphate battery, was the cause of the fire, the company said in August.