Reports of an imminent invasion of Chinese cars have proved exaggerated for more than a decade. Promised introductions have failed to materialize, and those from BYD, Geely, and others that we've seen displayed at auto shows looked unready for prime time. Now I've had a chance to actually drive one, the all-electric BYD e6, at the 26th Electric Vehicle Symposium taking place this week in Los Angeles. Truthfully, it made a better impression than we would have expected.
The e6 looks like a tall station wagon, and it features a 60-kWh lithium-ion battery with a claimed range of 180 miles. I couldn't verify that on my brief outing. When I drove it, the dashboard display indicated it had a remaining range of 105 miles with 55-percent charge left in the battery.
The front-wheel-drive BYD e6 rides pretty nicely, perhaps due to its over 5000-pound weight. Acceleration begins with a strong initial spurt but it tapers off rapidly and becomes somewhat sluggish. Handling is rather ungainly. The interior seemed fairly well put together.
Charge time is estimated to be 18 hours or six hours through a "fast" DC charger. The BYD is slated to be on sale for fleets only perhaps by the end of 2012 for a price of over $40,000.