Hype Fades on Electric Cars from China's BYD

· · 7 years ago

Any fears that China’s BYD will quickly dominate the world market for hybrid and electric cars should be put on ice. The company is far off its 2010 sales goals for conventional cars; its stock has fallen about 40 percent so far this year; and production of its electric cars is stuck in neutral.

Why did anybody think that BYD and other Chinese automakers were about to take over global car markets? Let us count the ways:

  • In April 2009, the New York Times ran a front page story outlining how the Detroit Three should start worrying about China’s electric car plans. The Chinese government set out a goal of selling 500,000 electric-drive cars by the end of 2011. (They’re now selling a few thousand per year.)
  • BYD displayed prototypes at major international auto shows. The company made outrageous claims—for example, that its all-electric e6 can travel 250 miles on a single one-hour recharge. BYD said its first car would be available in the U.S. in 2010.
  • Famed investor Warren Buffet invested more than $200 million to acquire a 10 percent stake in BYD. How could the Oracle of Omaha be wrong?
  • In March of this year, the blogosphere lit up with stories about how BYD became the world’s first automaker to offer a mass-produced plug-in hybrid to individual buyers. In truth, the company sold less than 100 units, mostly to government fleets.

China Economic Review today reported that Chinese consumer incentives—approximately $7,300—are not helping with sales of BYD’s F3DM plug-in hybrid. The Shenzhen government bought 14 units in April, 2 in May, and 12 in June. According to the report, the car’s batteries are unreliable, and the company was forced to halt construction of a new factory due to “land use violation.”

Automotive News China [free registration required] reported that BYD hoped to sell 800,000 gas-powered cars this year, but in the first six months of 2010, the company sold only 285,000 units. The publication said that BYD is relying too much on cheap manual labor and copycat vehicle designs. With rising labor costs, its manufacturing operations are getting squeezed.

The reports remind us, once again, to apply a healthy dose of skepticism about any plug-in car until numerous reporters and consumers have taken a successful test drive.

Vaporware, like global warming, transcends international borders.


· Anonymous (not verified) · 7 years ago


Mate, Warren Buffett bought in at $8 less than two years ago and its now $51. Even if it doesn't take over the world it was still a good investment for him so far

· · 7 years ago

Good point! But the hype is not helpful to consumers trying to figure out the marketplace.

· Paul Scott (not verified) · 7 years ago

We've sure seen our share of hype in this business over the past several years. I'm disappointed that BYD has joined the ranks of Zap, et al. Let's hope they get their act together. Thanks to Brad for adding it all up so well.

· Greg Blencoe (not verified) · 7 years ago


Thanks for the informative article. I think this is just the beginning. Just wait until the Leaf and Volt come out beginning later this year and see what happens.

I highly recommend checking out the following article.

"Top 20 quotes from Toyota and Honda executives criticizing plug-in battery cars (and one from Hyundai and Audi)"


Greg Blencoe
Chief Executive Officer
Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
Publisher, Hydrogen Car Revolution blog

· Jerry (not verified) · 7 years ago

Checked out your site. Dude, you don't have a prayer in hell to win that bet. 1% of all passenger cars and light trucks will be powered by hydrogen by 2015??!!! It's great to be enthusiastic and passionate about it but at some point reality has to sink in. We are decades away from having hydrogen FC vehicles produced and sold in large quantities. Hydrogen is always "five years away"... Battery electric vehicles are the best way, for the foreseeable future, reduce our dependence on oil and to begin to transition to cleaner fuels.

I would like to see continued research and cars like the Honda clarity and GM's equinox FCV increase in numbers but we need to some how get past the fact that it takes more energy to make hydrogen than it eventually gives. Why even bother? Just take the energy and put it in a battery and eliminate the whole hydrogen process.

Just promise to post the picture of you wearing the t-shirt that say's you were wrong when you lose the bet. You could move the date back to 2020 and still lose!!!

· · 7 years ago

I suppose any conversation about vapor will eventually lead to hydrogen (although it is off-topic here).

· Greg Blencoe (not verified) · 7 years ago


The Nissan Leaf will cost about $15,000-20,000 more than the Nissan Versa. But how does the driving range, trunk space, and fueling time compare? Where is the value for mainstream consumers?

And why would somebody want to pay around $15,000 more (before subsidies) for a Volt than a Prius?

Here are two articles you should check out...

"Copy of Letter of Understanding from eight car companies calling for initial hydrogen fueling stations to be built by 2015"


"7 reasons to love Toyota hydrogen fuel cell vehicles"

Here are 7 reasons to love Toyota hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (which the company started developing in-house back in 1992 when I was a senior in high school):

1. 431-mile real-world driving range with Toyota FCHV-adv (mid-size SUV) hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (See the following YouTube video)

2. 68.3 real-world miles per kilogram fuel economy with Toyota FCHV-adv (See the following YouTube video)

3. Ability to operate in temperatures as low as minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 37 degrees Celsius)

4. Irv Miller, TMS group vice president, environmental and public affairs, made the following comment on August 6th:

“In 2015, our plan is to bring to market a reliable and durable fuel cell vehicle with exceptional fuel economy and zero emissions, at an affordable price.”

5. Masatami Takimoto, a Toyota executive vice president and board member, made the following comment about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in January 2009 at the North American International Auto Show:

“By 2015, we will have a full-fledged commercialization effort.”

6. The Toyota FCHV-adv (Highlander) hydrogen fuel cell vehicle has the same trunk and passenger space as the gasoline-powered version.

Click on the following link to see a picture of the trunk in the Toyota FCHV-adv hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

7. Here is a comment made by Justin Ward, advanced powertrain program manager-Toyota Technical Center, in a Ward’s Automotive article (subscription required) that was published on July 16th:

“We have some confidence the vehicle released around 2015 is going to have costs that are going to be shocking for most of the people in the industry. They are going to be very surprised we were able to achieve such an impressive cost reduction.”

Greg Blencoe
Chief Executive Officer
Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
Publisher, Hydrogen Car Revolution blog

· Greg Blencoe (not verified) · 7 years ago

I forgot to include the link for the second article. Here it is...


And check out what Toyota is saying about plug-in hybrid cars. These two excerpts are from the plug-in Prius frequently asked questions page:

1. "There will be an important role for PHVs, but it will not be in high volume until there are significant improvements in overall battery performance…and battery cost reduction."

2. "During that testimony a Toyota representative was asked Toyota’s opinion on current battery costs and how significantly it might be reduced. What Toyota said then was that the very rough estimate was approximately $1200 per KWH for a complete pack including instrumentation and ventilation systems…and that efficiencies in scale alone will not create major cost reductions in the near term.* Significant reductions in cost will require major technological breakthroughs.** "


Greg Blencoe
Chief Executive Officer
Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
Publisher, Hydrogen Car Revolution blog

· Greg Blencoe (not verified) · 7 years ago


One final note...

While I know we will have to agree to disagree on what the solution is, I want to let you both know that I really respect your passion for solving the oil crisis. We need a lot more people like you two.

Greg Blencoe
Chief Executive Officer
Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
Publisher, Hydrogen Car Revolution blog

· · 7 years ago


For many years I believed that Hydrogen would eventually be the way off oil, and I still think that in the future it may, but it's not going to happen in 2015, not even close.

We need to get begin to reduce our oil dependence now, not in 2015 or 2020 or 2030, whenever we figure out a reasonable way to make, compress, ship & distribute hydrogen at a reasonable price. The problem isn't making the cars, it's making the fuel cheaply, safely and having a reasonable, affordable way to distribute it. The home fueling stations currently being touted are completely inadequate and are a way off from being an acceptable choice but are worth continuing to research. I think home based systems are the only way, using solar to provide the energy to make the stuff. Building out a commercial hydrogen infrastructure is prohibitively expensive.
Keep researching and the breakthroughs will come, but we're not there yet my friend. You've already lost that bet.

· · 7 years ago

Can you perhaps open up another forum discussion on H2. I'll be happy to tear you apart limb from limb there (figuratively, of course, unlike what the Hydrogen mafia did to my EV1).
Let's keep these posts about the problems the Chinese run into when they try to develop technology instead of just copying it.

· · 7 years ago

Greg - Despite the strong opposition to longer term solutions, I appreciate your participation on the site. Healthy conversations about all tech pathways--and the role each can play--is essential to the movement. I look forward to driving a fuel cell car one day. I'm a relatively young man. :)

· · 7 years ago

I dread having to pay so much to fuel a car. No matter what source, Hydrogen will always cost you at least twice as much as the alternative.
If your hydrogen comes from natural gas, you'd get more mpg from the natural gas burned in a decent hybrid ICE than after the expense and loss of energy caused by stripping the carbon off the methane (CH4) and only using only the Hydrogen.
If your hydrogen comes from renewables electrolyzing water, you'll get at least twice as many miles per day from your acre of solar collectors or wind turbine going to a battery EV than to a hydrogen car.
The next problem comes from carrying the hydrogen. The specific energy of hydrogen (WattHours per Kilogram) is great (about 3x that of gasoline). Unfortunately, the Energy Density (WattHours per Liter) is very poor 1/4 to 1/2 that of gasoline), forcing one to give up a lot of cargo space in order to carry enough H2 to go very far. How much trunk space is there in an Equinox or H7?
The inefficiencies in hydrogen are just plain difficult. They hydrogen mafia just keeps that part quiet in order to keep the research money flowing in and to keep EVs off the road.

· Desertstraw (not verified) · 7 years ago

Maybe the reasons for giving credence to the Chinese are the best high speed trains in the world and their dominance of the solar panel industry. BYD is one of the world's leading manufacturers of lithium batteries for computers, etc. I remember when Toyota was a joke with a junky little car. If I were a betting man, I would not bet against the Chinese dominating the car industry in a few years. They are producing engineers, we are producing business majors.

· A BYD shareholder (not verified) · 7 years ago


May be you should pay a visit to Shenzhen and take a ride on the BYD's powered battery Taxi and let us know if it can indeed travel 250km on a single charge. Everyone knows it takes time to build the charging stations and have the infrastructure in place to get zero emission cars to take off.

By the way, Warren Buffett bought shares in the company not because of its electric car potential but for its renewable energy storage and grid wise home technologies . Check out BYD and KB Home solar home project in Lancaster.

If all these BYD project takes off, which I believe it will, we'll all live in a cleaner world. Yes their design are mostly copycat now but their engineering and innovation spirit is something that's worth my investment (They have over 10,000 engineers doing rechargeable batterry related technologies R&D!). We need companies like BYD to make zero emission and clean energy for everyone a reality.

Many competitors are envy of the attention BYD is getting because they know they are falling behind in electric car technology and other technologies too. But the good thing is the company is focusing on its vision and trying its best to make their dream to become a reality by ignoring all these negative news and just doing its own thing.

· A BYD shareholder (not verified) · 7 years ago

Just receive some updates from E6 real world usage in Shenzhen taxi fleet. So far the results are quite encouraging. With air-conditioner running @ 25C (77F) and battery fully charged, one driver achieved 309km(192miles) and someone achieved 296km(183miles) yesterday. Top speed of 150km/hr (93miles/hr) were achievable. So far no major issues were reported. BYD is expected to publish the fleet results to public after 6 months of fleet trial to proof the E6 claims.

· · 7 years ago

I suppose we shouldn't rule out BYD actually delivering at some point. We'll need a lot more data from real vehicles--and a lot of people (consumers, journalists, etc.) behind the wheel before we really know what BYD might deliver.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 7 years ago

Brad..... You said any conversation about vapour would lead to hydrogen. I hate to have to say this here in this kind of expert forum but... gasoline in the engine before it is ignited by the spark plugs is ALSO vapour. A vapour mixture of gasoline of some type and air. This vapour ignites smoothly, hopefully, and then expands producing force that pushes the piston down against the crankshaft thereby turning it at certain force and so resulting in a certain RPM and thus eventually driving the wheels. Note: gasoline in this state is also vapour.
I would agree that using electricity to power electric motors and store in some type of battery or capacitor is much more efficient then wasting electricity to convert oil to gasoline or water or natural gas to hydrogen.

· · 7 years ago

@Anon: Actually, I wasn't speaking about the the technology. I was speaking figuratively about vapor as in "vaporware"--products that are characterized as real and ready for the market, but never seems to show up.

· Bill (not verified) · 7 years ago

You've completely missed the business model of BYD. It's based on rechargeable batteries and expanded into solar cells. Starting as a small lithium battery company for hand held devices such as cell phones, BYD is now a major global supplier. From that base, they've become one of the leading car companies in China (out of 100 companies) and are going global. They've turned to solar panels and using their battery technology as storage. You've missed the model home completely run on a combination of solar and battery storage.
Do your research before your write.

· mormak (not verified) · 6 years ago

Good article. Just want to give a little insight from the other side of the world; Shenzhen China. It is true that the BYD hybrids and EVs are selling poorly here in China. the e6 is not on sale in the China market yet, so I don't think it will be selling in N. America any time soon. And I don't see a whole lot of any hybrids here. Chinese people either spend a lot of $ on gas hogs or little money on a cheap car, but never a lot of $ on an eco car.

What you do see though is e6 electric taxis and a few charging stations. I guess BYD is using the taxis as a pilot run. I guess this makes sense since the taxi drivers spends 8 hrs a day with the car....they should give some good insights on what's good or bad about the e6.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

news that might change your perspective about BYD, from

Today marks the one year anniversary of the world’s largest all-electric vehicle Taxi fleet, manufactured by BYD. In conjunction with this anniversary, BYD announced results of several of its electric vehicle pilots – the F3DM, e6 and eBUS-12 which are in fleet testing across the world. Fifty of BYD’s e6, five-seat crossover vehicles, each with a range of over 160 miles (up to 300 Km) and a top speed of 88 mph (140km/h), have been in service at Shenzhen-based Pengcheng Electric Taxi Company since April 29, 2010.

The Shenzhen e6 Taxi fleet has now accumulated ~1,730,000 all-electric miles (or 2.77 million kilometers). The distance traveled for single fleet vehicles has reached ~63,000 miles each (>100,000 km). “This fleet of 50 e6 taxis has survived the very harsh operating conditions of hot Shenzhen summers and a very cold winter this year, and drivers and passengers alike have been extremely satisfied with their ride experience,” according to Stella Li, Senior Vice President. 250 more eTaxis are being delivered to the International University in Shenzhen before August this year. According to collected data, the per-car-fuel-savings is over $1167 per-Taxi-per-month (driving an average of 400Km per day). BYD’s all-electric Taxis are expected to help Shenzhen avoid about 133 lbs (or 60.4Kg) of carbon-dioxide pollution per day per Taxi. This is an equivalent of 2,425,060 lbs (or 1.1M kg) of carbon-dioxide pollution saved by this fleet in the first year.

The most important finding in the e6 fleet testing was that there has been no noticeable energy drop – both driving range and battery performance has been stable in rapid-charging conditions over the 1.73M miles tested – a breakthrough in EV rapid-charging. BYD has been challenged by the media about its claims of long-range electric vehicles and superior battery longevity in rapid-charging regimes since launching its first dual-mode, electric and plug-in-hybrid electric vehicles in December 2008. With the results of the e6 fleet, which was continuously rapid charged in 20- 30 minutes, BYD now has a proven track record for its Iron-Phosphate battery technology. The data is there to show vehicle charging efficiencies, consumption efficiencies, and EV ranges over time-- all with rapid-charging regimes.

BYD also reported on its F3DM fleet which BYD launched in its first US tests at the Housing Authority of Los Angeles (HACLA). The F3DM can travel over 40 miles all-electric but can be engaged to act as a Hybrid-Electric (HEV) to extend its range up to 300 miles. The HACLA fleet has now accumulated ~10,430 miles all-electric and 14,430 total miles (4,000 fuel-driven miles when extended range was necessary). The fleet is achieving an equivalent of 88 mpg and BYD estimates the per-car-savings---even netting out EV charging and electricity costs-- is ~70%. BYD’s dual-mode cars are expected to save HACLA about 37 lbs of carbon-dioxide per-day-per-auto when driven to the EV range.

In China, BYD launched an all-electric bus fleet with the eBUS-12 (click for video link) in Shenzhen and Changsha, China in January 2011. These fleets have already accumulated 28,802 all-electric miles (46,380 Km) while undergoing a 3-hour-charge of the 324 Kwh FE battery. An example of the per-eBUS-savings for Shenzhen’s Bus Line 202 (driving only 200Km per day) is about $2833 monthly per eBUS. 300 more buses will be delivered to Shenzhen in August of this year. BYD’s all-electric eBUSes save about 708 lbs (or 322Kg) in carbon-dioxide emissions per eBUS per day.

In total, BYD EVs have accumulated over 1.769 million all-electric miles and have seen no diminished range or capacity due to rapid-charging. BYD vehicles are estimated to have already saved $360,000 in fuel costs and over 2.776 million lbs of carbon-dioxide. BYD launched consumer sales of the F3DM in September 2010 and anticipates very good demand for the BYD e6 and all electric vehicles in China, fueled in part by government incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles. “Consumers that purchase pure electric vehicles will also enjoy the special privilege of "license-plate-lottery-free, no traffic restrictions and tax-free exemptions (paid by the government)."

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