Denza Electric Car Brand Moves Closer to Reality

By · April 24, 2013

Denza BEV in Shanghai

Denza's pre-production electric car makes an appearance at this year's Shanghai Auto Show.

Denza, the Chinese electric vehicle brand being developed jointly by Daimler and China’s BYD Auto, made safety and reliability the main theme of its press conference at this year’s Shanghai Auto Show. “In 2010 we set up the joint venture with the mission of developing the safest, most reliable EV in China. We are almost there,” Hubertus Troska, chairman of Shenzhen BYD Daimler New Technology Co., told an overflowing crowd of journalist at the April 20 press conference.

Arno Roehringer, C.O.O. of the joint venture, went through a long list of reliability tests the JV is performing on the Denza BEV, which will be launched at the Guangzhou Auto Show in the south China city of Guangzhou in November. He also touted the vehicle design and technology, both aimed at boosting safety.
“We will convince our customers electric vehicles will replace traditional vehicles,” said Roehringer.

BYD is likely hoping to address specific doubts about the safety of its electric vehicles after a BYD e6 all-electric taxi burst into flame last May after being rammed by a speeding sports car in the south China city of Shenzhen.

Safety Tests

Among the reliability tests: Recharging the battery pack through many cycles. That sounds like standard procedure. “It lasts as long as the car is owned,” said Roehringer. The Denza BEV, has a claimed driving range of about 125 miles, was also tested in five different climates, from dry, hot desert to freezing cold mountains to hot and steamy tropical, he said.

As for safety, the vehicle has been crash-tested many times, said Troska. The battery is located in “the safest place of the vehicle,” underneath the passenger compartment in the center of the car body, he said.

The battery management system is also engineered for safety. In case of emergency, battery and powertrain components are disconnected and the energy is concentrated at the safest place in the car—inside the battery frame.

Looking for Buyers

Even if Chinese consumers buy Denza’s pitch that its BEV is the safest and most reliable on the road, they aren’t that likely to buy it, or any electric vehicle. Electric vehicle sales in China have been painfully slow. Only 11,375 were purchased in 2012 despite incentives.

Denza BEV in Shanghai

The Chinese government is expected in the next few weeks to announce new incentives to boost purchases of electric vehicles. The previous incentives – which amounted to more than $19,000 in some locations including local incentives–failed to ignite consumer interest in EVs. Bigger incentives—including free license plates in Shanghai, where the cost of a plate can run $12,000—might do the trick. Beijing is also boosting its EV purchase incentives.

Denza is betting on those incentives. Shanghai and Beijing are the first cities where Denza will have a dealer network, said Troska. “The market in China is ready for electric vehicles,” he said.

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