THE ELECTRIC CAR e6 by BYD (Hong Kong)
BYD, China's biggest battery maker, isn't wasting any time carving its niche in the new world of electric cars and plug-in hybrids. It all started with the F6DM plug-in hybrid sedan, followed by the smaller and less expensive F3DM plug-in hybrid compact car.
Now BYD has introduced its E6 electric car at the Beijing International Auto Show. It takes the shape of a crossover, or MPV, and will be built on on the F6's platform (same as the F6DM, which could be sold in Europe by 2010).
BYD E6 Electric car photo
BYD E6 Electric Vehicle Specifications
So far, all we know is that the E6 will be a 5 seater with an acceleration of 0 to 100 kph of around 10 seconds. Top speed should be top speed of 160 kph (100 mph), and the battery pack, which is located under the rear passenger seats, will be based on BYD's own lithium-ion iron phosphate technology. Range per charge is expected to be 300 km (186 miles).
But most impressive of all:
"BYD projected the battery had a life of 2,000 cycles, for a lifetime range of about 600,000 km (373,000 miles)"
Wow! Even if thats just half true, it's still pretty good.
BYD E6 Electric car photo
Charging of the battery will take the night with 220V, but the E6 electric car can also take a fast charge that can bring the battery to 80% SOC in about 15 minutes.
BYD says that it could start producing the E6 within two years. Another one to follow.
The current GCC perusal of BYD electric drive dreams focuses upon the lithium iron phosphate battery that they manufacture.
Powered by a lithium-ion pack built with BYD's own lithium-ion iron phosphate large format prismatic batteries, the E6 will have a maximum mileage of 300 km (186 miles) after being fully charged. BYD says the 5-seat vehicle will accelerate from zero to 100 km per hour in around 10 seconds and has a top speed of 160 kph (99 mph).
Charging at 220V will take overnight; the E6 can also take a fast charge that can bring the battery to 80% SOC in about 15 minutes.
A front traction motor delivers 450 Nm of torque, while a rear motor delivers 100 Nm of torque.
BYD had earlier developed the F3e prototype electric vehicle, with electric consumption of less than 12 kWh per 100km, and a range of more than 300 km under one charge. BYD projected the battery had a life of 2,000 cycles, for a lifetime range of about 600,000 km (373,000 miles)
BYD's e6 Electric Car 'Game Changer'
BYD is working on at least three electric-drive models, the largest being the F6DM due out possibly in 2009.
For years, electric car proponents have been looking for the 'game changer' in battery technology, citing companies like Altair Nanotechnology, A123 and the ever-enigmatic EEStor as potential candidates for the title. Now it would appear that a once-obscure company situated not far from Hong Kong may be entitled to that claim.
Build Your Dream carmaker in China may just have claimed the title.
BYD has over 100,000 employees. Their core competence is batteries. Around the globe, they are Number One in lithium cell phone batteries and NiCd batteries.
They have done autos since 2003. Their announcements indicate that they can do a safe 2000 cycle lithium battery for only $300 per kWh.
If it is true that they can launch these auto batteries at that cost they don't need to spend much R&D to develop ICE because they will soon become obsolete for anything but "genset" applications. I assume that launch cost will be importantly higher than longer term production cost.
My guess is that BYD expects to do these batteries for $300 per kWh at launch because it can explain why they are so aggressive on the development of electric and serial PHEVs. They certainly seem to be more than capable for large scale fabrication of these batteries.
I was a bit surprised when my article last week on BYD's (BYDDY.PK) new e6 electric car and the related post with videos of Wang Chuanfu received far more attention than coverage of Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK.A) Q1 2009 results. However, perhaps I should not be surprised given the intense interest in the auto industry in this economic environment. With Chrysler in bankruptcy protection and General Motors (GM) likely to suffer a similar fate, consumers and investors are eager to learn about companies that have been able to navigate the economy without the drama of government aid and bankruptcy proceedings.
I have been reading more on BYD's history and the path taken by Wang Chuanfu over the past several years. Perhaps the most revealing story I have found was published in the Financial Times in November. The FT article goes into considerable detail regarding BYD's strategy and background, but what I found most interesting had to do with the work ethic involved in building this company from the ground up over a very short time frame. Here are a few excerpts from the story:
Smarter and Harder Working Engineers
Although many might disagree, Wang Chuanfu considers the Chinese business climate and work ethic to be a major competitive advantage over western competitors:
Mr Wang says Chinese companies are smarter and work harder than their western competitors. He says China's main advantages are the size of its market and the quality of its people; 5m graduates leave Chinese universities every year, "more than the population of some European countries", he says. And they will work for much lower salaries than their western or Japanese competitors.
BYD employs 10,000 engineers, half of them working on cars, and Mr Wang says he will have 30,000 automotive engineers within a decade. His US and Japanese competitors cannot afford to hire so many, he says. "The cost is too high."
BYD recruits most managers straight out of university, trains them on the job and lodges new graduates in a high-rise dormitory-style building adjacent to the factory.
Can Better Battery Technology Outweigh "Fit and Finish" Issues?
BYD has not adopted the typical supply chain that is used by most auto makers. Instead, nearly all components of BYD vehicles, except for the tires, and produced by the company. This kind of integrated supply chain may or may not be the best strategy in the long run since the "fit and finish" of BYD's vehicles is reportedly not up to par with many other manufacturers. Mr. Wang believes that this will improve over time and defends the overall quality of Chinese manufacturing. He considers the battery technology to be the competitive differentiator for BYD:
BYD will be competing with plug-in models produced by Renault, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, and General Motors, which plans to make its Volt model in China. Mr Wang says he is ready. "I believe Chinese companies can become leaders in the alternative car business because we make good batteries," he says. More experienced carmakers are struggling with such issues as the speed of charging and durability of automotive batteries – which need to last far longer than in laptops – in their prototype plug-in cars.
Mr. Wang also points out that other manufacturers have suffered battery recalls but BYD has never had a recall and is confident in the quality of the batteries. Given that battery reliability is a key aspect of the success of electric vehicles like the e6, BYD's long term success may depend on this point and on keeping this intellectual property proprietary — not always an easy task in China.
… Given cases of exploding lithium-ion batteries in laptops, the potential product liability risk of electric cars faced by carmakers – Chinese or not – is huge. Mr Wang deflects the point firmly. "We're the only battery maker that has never had a recall," he says, leaving unspoken the names of Sanyo (SANYY.PK) and Sony (SNE), which have both had expensive recalls. "We're very confident of the quality of the batteries."
Work-Life Balance? Not So Much …
Mr. Wang and his employees apparently are not enamored with western concepts such as "work-life balance". Whether you agree with the need for this balance or not, it appears obvious that there is a competitive advantage when you have a workforce that is willing to make major sacrifices in order to advance the interests of the company. To be sure, this type of work ethic exists in many other countries, but typically in only a small subset of the population.
Wang Chuanfu is all work and no play – and proud of it.
He says his punishing seven-days-a-week schedule is par for the course in China. "Maybe in the Western world, life is number one and work is number two," he says one bright Saturday morning at the bustling headquarters of BYD, his battery-cum-car company in Shenzhen. "But in China, work is number one and life is number two," he adds. "Especially in my generation. I don't know if the next generation will be the same. I enjoy working very much, if you ask me to go sightseeing for a day I probably wouldn't enjoy it."
In the rare moments when not at the office, Mr Wang lives in a modest penthouse flat in the "workers' village" with his wife and daughter.
Mr Wang spurns the trappings enjoyed by many of his western peers, such as corporate jets and expensive clothes.
Whether BYD works out as an investment or not is an open question and there are many factors that will determine business success beyond work ethic and technology. However, one cannot help but be impressed with the thirteen year history of this company and the culture put in place by its founder. Like it or not, this is the type of competition the legacy automakers are up against in today's economy. In my opinion, the world will have better transportation options in the future as a result of agile, hard working, and innovative companies like BYD.