Exclusive: BYD Announces Breakthrough U.S. Pricing for Chinese Long-Range Electric Cars

By · January 09, 2011


BYD's F3DM dual-mode car allows drivers to manually switch from pure EV to plug-in hybrid opertion.

BYD’s all-electric e6 sedan with a huge 60 kWh battery pack will sell in the United States for $35,000 before incentives—while the F3DM dual-model EV/PHEV will cost $28,800. On the eve of the 2011 Detroit auto show, Michael Austin, the Chicago-based BYD vice president of marketing and public relations duties, confirmed these prices and told me that BYD will sell “tens of thousands” of both models in the United States by 2012.

BYD, the Chinese company promising to revolutionize the global auto market, is back at the Detroit auto show for the fourth year in a row. Never shy about making big promises, the company will unveil a new concept electric sedan and SUV in Detroit. Austin was eager to talk about these future models, and BYD’s grand vision for selling electric cars along with solar panels, LED lighting and stationary battery storage for the home. But I steered the conversation back to the question that plug-in car fans most want to know: When will the cars displayed for years actually go on sale?

On Schedule for 2012

Austin told me that by 2012, BYD will have at least five showrooms open in the U.S., and as many as 20. He pointed to the 10 units of the F3DM that went into fleet testing in December at the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles as proof that the company will deliver on its promises. “All necessary crash testing will be completed in 2011,” Austin said. He said the “biggest trouble” facing BYD had to do with the Environmental Protection Agency not being able to determine the best way to measure range and emissions in the F3DM.

The BYD F3DM fleet at the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles

BYD's Micheal Austin with Rudolf C. Montiel and David Esparza of the Housing Authority, in front of its fleet of F3DMs.

The F3DM is not a plug-in series hybrid or extended-range electric car, but a car with two independent systems—one electric and the other a blended gas-electric hybrid. The driver can manually switch between the two systems. According to Austin, the car can travel up to 60 miles in its pure electric mode, using energy stored in a 16 kWh battery pack. With the push of a button, the driver can switch to a hybrid system that operates with battery-assisted acceleration at low speeds, and with the 1.0-liter engine clutched to drive the wheels at high RPMs. The 9-gallon tank will provide 300 miles of driving range, delivering more than 30 miles to the gallon. Every model has a large solar panel on the roof capable of charging the battery pack.

Austin expressed strong confidence that the F3DM is on schedule for 2012. “I doubt it will get delayed, but the e6 might,” Austin said. He said the e6 will begin testing in China in May. “U.S. models will always roll out one year after Chinese markets are launched.”

Austin emphasized that testing in the U.S. is also a critical step for BYD. After the all-electric e6 was shown last year, BYD learned that American consumers were disappointed with lack of legroom in the back seat—due to how the batteries were packaged. Since that time, Austin said, the entire layout was redesigned to remove the four inches of raised floor in the backseat compartment. “It only takes six months for complete retooling in China,” Austin said.

He also said that the Chinese version of the e6 uses a 75 kW electric motor, but the U.S. consumers want more acceleration and therefore the U.S. version of the e6 will have 160 kW motor. The model with the more powerful motor—capable of delivering zero-to-60 times in less than 8 seconds—will be called the e6 S (for Sport).

BYD e6 electric car

BYD e6 electric car, potentially with the largest battery pack of any EV on the market.

Big Ideas, And Reality

Selling an electric car with a 60 kWh battery pack capable of at least 200 mile of range—and probably more like 250 miles—for $35,000 (before incentives) will be a feat. “That’s a breakthrough,” Austin said.

While the BYD vehicles will use next-generation technology, the fit and finish of the Chinese-made vehicles will be a throwback. “I’m not going to yank your chain. You’re not buying a Mercedes-Benz when you buy a BYD,” Austin said, referring to the challenge the company faces in catching up with its competitors on the quality of the interiors.

BYD shows no fear about announcing electric car production dates and targets, driving range numbers, and prices that seem too good to be true. I repeatedly asked Austin to confirm that BYD will have indeed have tens of thousands of plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars in U.S. showrooms—on sale for less than any of its competitors—before the end of next year. “That’s the idea,” Austin replied.


· · 7 years ago

Talk is cheap, I'll reserve judgement until there a real car consumers can drive and order. What would a 60 kWh battery pack weigh? I'm thinking 1500 lbs or so.

· · 7 years ago

I'm all for more EV options, although I'm not a fan of Chinese quality. (Can you say those two words at the same time?) The prospect of a car out there with a 60kWh pack is really interesting, but how they can bring it to market for $35K, even considering the low labor cost in China, is really beyond me. Even if you use $500/kWh which is much lower than the current market rate, that battery alone would cost $30,000. So the rest of the car costs $5,000 with a profit margin in there somewhere.

Unfortunately, I really don't think we're going to see any car on the market with a 60kWh battery for 35 grand.

· · 7 years ago

I'm with you, Tom. But Michael Austin insists that BYD has the cost of batteries down well below all competitors. Maybe $200/kWh. So, maybe a $12,000 battery pack--but still huge and heavy. BYD is aiming for breakthroughs. Time will tell.

· · 7 years ago

Get a bit more realistic with the battery size, say 40 kWh, and they would be delivering an easy >150 miles range assuming a ~3500 lb car. Within a year 150 will be considered a lot. It will become increasingly clear that adding 50% range (to 150 from LEAF's 100) takes us from 85% of trips being covered in the EV to 95%. Diminishing returns for increased cost after that.
I've got no idea if BYD is blowing smoke or truly getting ready to deliver. But timing is everything. There is a market that will trade fit and finish for range. I'm ready to try out a car.

· JJJ (not verified) · 7 years ago

Even if they deliver on all their promises....I don't think too many consumers would be willing to bite.

1) Chinese companies aren't known for their quality.
2) ANY new brand faces huge hurdles. What's the resale value? How will it hold up in 5 years? How is the service?

· Priusmaniac (not verified) · 7 years ago

An F3-DM at 28800 $, that is 22000 €. If they can deliver that in Europe where the gasoline is at 1.5 €/L (8 $/gallon), you can say goodbye to at least 50 % of all the other brands. If this comes true, we are at the threshold of a revolution of the same kind as what we have witnessed in the seventies in the electronics sector.

· · 7 years ago

Secretary of Energy Chu said that within five years or less, we will have a battery that will deliver a driving range that will put all fossil fuel vehicles to shame and blow your mind away and cost just a little over what a acid lead battery now costs and will fully charge in about five minutes. If he is right, and I believe he is, then the cost of electric cars should be about half the price of our crappiest cars. So maybe China heard what SE Chu said and betting he is right.

· · 7 years ago

Sadly, I've ruled out ever buying anything made in China. I disagree with their human rights issues (among other issues) way too much to ever give them any money. For years now the only money they directly get from me has been for light bulbs since apparently no one else makes energy efficient bulbs.

· old_man (not verified) · 7 years ago

Ladies and gentlemen, please look up Oliver Parker fritchle. His ecectric car could do 100
miles in 1905. His published 1908 Lincoln to New york endurance run trip journal along with
photos is called "The 100 Mile Fritchle Electric". What is old and lost is now new and Chic!
P.S. Lets not forget the 1916 Owen Magnetic or Woods Dual Power.

· Mark Charles (not verified) · 7 years ago

People seem to forget that BYD was not a car company first, they were a battery company, When they say they can deliver, believe me they can deliver. This is not some car company trying to see what battery fits their car, this is a battery company that can use their science and math to calculate exactly what is needed for what distance. Plus they have cheap labor. I do believe their only downfall could be underestimating the standard of luxury Americans are used to. No one wants to drive a cardboard box even though it is very cheap.

· kelly (not verified) · 7 years ago

Until the 240Z kicked a**, Japanese cars were thought to be junk. Until the 2000 Elantra and later Sonata, Korean cars were thought to be junk.

Now the company with the batteries you bought in your cell phone says they can make larger batteries and has their EVs driving about LA.

Careful what one calls junk, especially if their products are already in your pocket.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 7 years ago

can't agree Kelly any more.

· · 7 years ago

@JamesDavis Any links on your claims about what Chu said ?

· Alan (not verified) · 7 years ago

It will be interesting if BYD team up with Chrysler .... and call it a Plymouth !!!

Trying to compete with Toyota, Honda, Ford, Chevy, Nissan - they are going to need to sell a $15000 car!

· Anonymous (not verified) · 7 years ago

Nice promise, hope they deliver, but man that car is ugly. they need some exterior design ideas. also, what about the east coast?

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Consumers in Shenzhen will receive a substantial government subsidy–equivalent to about $18,000 USD (or 120,000 RMB) and the e6 unsubsidized price will start at ~$56,900 (or 369,800 RMB). The final price to consumers will be ~$38,430


· GlenB (not verified) · 6 years ago

Although it isn't their electric car, I drive a BYD F3R in China. For a new auto company this car has been good but even better the service center I take the carto, to be check is excellent. If BYD can set up a service center like this one they should be able to make an impression in the US auto market as well as the energy market.

· JC (not verified) · 6 years ago

Remember everyone, this company (BYD) is one that has been invested by the Omaha business guru himself (Warren Buffet).

He has invested MILLIONS in this company (Google it).

I would NOT under-estimate a company (Chinese or otherwise) that has been invested in by Buffet!

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