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Published on January 20th, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan


BYD Takes #1 Electric Car Spot As Electric Car Sales Triple In China (Video Interview)

January 20th, 2016 by  

Originally published on Sustainnovate.

BYD is one of the leading electric car manufacturers in the world — or even the leading manufacturer. It is also the world’s leading manufacturer of electric buses, sells solar panels, sells stationary energy storage systems, and sells LEDs as well. You can’t make a list of corporate cleantech leaders and exclude BYD. In 2014, Wang Chuanfu, founder and chairman of BYD, actually won the Zayed Future Energy Prize Lifetime Achievement Award. So, this is essentially the second time BYD is winning.

I encourage you to watch the video interview with Mr Chuanfu to get not only the key points, but also nuances. One difficult thing about the interview to note, however, is that the questions and answers had to go through a translator who doesn’t actually work for BYD — leading to some challenges in communicating the questions and answers. Overall, though, I think they got transmitted effectively, and toward the end, Sherry Li, a marketing director for BYD, stepped in to help with the translations.

That note aside, some of my key takeaways from this rare opportunity to get answers directly (or almost directly) from Mr Chuanfu are as follows:

  • The electric car market tripled in China in 2015. As part of that, BYD became the largest electric car producer in China and in the world as a whole.
  • BYD expects the Chinese electric car market to double every year in the next 3 years.
  • BYD’s electric buses are now running in over 160 cities.
  • BYD doesn’t really see Tesla as a competitor. The market is huge, leaving a ton of room for growth throughout the market. More than competitors, Tesla and BYD are partners in growing the transition to electric vehicles. Additionally, Tesla currently sells to a high-end market, while BYD serves more affordable markets, so they are simply in quite different segments.
  • I had to ask repeatedly about whether the very popular BYD Tang and BYD Qin would come to the US and/or Europe, two plug-in hybrid models with great performance that have been extremely popular in China. Unfortunately, the word finally was that BYD is focusing on electric buses for now to build its brand in the US and Europe. In other words, it seems there are no clear plans to bring the Qin or Tang overseas.
  • As far as stationary storage, BYD noted that it is focusing on home storage in Japan, while it is focusing on large-scale, industrial storage projects in the US.
  • As noted earlier, BYD is rolling out electric buses around the developed world. Pushed to list some of the 160+ cities that use these buses,  Mr Chuanfu mentioned LA, London (which uses single-decker and double-decker), Amsterdam (the airport has 30 buses) are using BYD electric buses. But the big users are, of course, still in China. 50 Chinese cities are using BYD electric buses.

I’m a big fan of BYD, so it was fun to see the company win, and it was an honor to have the opportunity to ask Mr Chuanfu questions.

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • Yes, he makes a lot of estimates, and I’m not comfortable quoting those numbers, but they probably do provide good general guidance.

    • Jenny Sommer

      You can now buy the BYD e6 in Germany and Austria.
      50k€excl. taxes.

      DHL is using T3 electric Transporters now in Shenzhen.
      Apart from buses they also offer bigger Transporters. The T5 and T7 (7 and 10t)

  • Freddy D

    What is the China EV market? I guess I have to google this number. Makes a difference if it went from 1000 to 3000 vs 100,000 to 300,000. Also means there’s another huge battery player besides LG and Panasonic/ tesla

    • No way

      It went from ~60k in 2014 to ~190k in 2015. Well, the Chinese car EV-market did at least.
      The total EV market in China, including electric mopeds/bicycles/motorcycles/transportation vehicles/utility vehicles/buses is enormous, estimated somewhere between 20 and 40 million sales per year.

      BYD has also almost always been a huge battery player, that is how they started. They actually bought a car company to have something else to put their batteries in. =)

      • jhammerb

        Where’s the 190k number come from?

        • No way

          From the EV sales blog (EV-sales.blogspot.com). Probably the most complete and generally accurate publisher of EV sales stat. Official Chinese numbers were ~78k in 2014 and ~210k in 2015, excluding imported EVs. But I don’t know which models they include and I trust the blog more.

    • ROBwithaB

      It all depends on your definition of “vehicle”.
      A lot of smaller two-stroke motorised things are being electrified at the moment, from what I gather. Glorified rickshaws, tuk-tuks, etc. (But I’ve never been there, myself, so don’t have first hand knowledge. Only what I can glean from the internet.)

  • JamesWimberley

    It is disappointing, not just to BYD and its shareholders, that in spite of a string of successful trials, and the much-hyped “green cities” movement, the company has not yet managed to land a major bus contract (>100 vehicles) with a city outside China. (The large order in Israel is a special case, because of the national security aspect in going off oil.) The trials haven’t SFIK revealed any major technical issues, and confirmed major advantages in passenger comfort, running costs, and reduction in emissions and noise. Hypotheses: the innate conservatism of bus operators; protectionist, buy-domestic sentiment; and operators waiting for the price to drop. Unlike with cars, there is no trickle-down effect from a few pioneer customers.

    I nevertheless bet that BYD will land at least one large contract outside China this year. It won’t be London: Boris has already ordered replacements for the 50-strong single-decker fleet, and a double-decker – the standard London bus – will only be trialled in the autumn.

    • neroden

      The US and Canadian bus agencies have been *ridiculously* conservative. There are three perfectly good heavily-field-tested battery-electric buses on the market (Proterra, BYD, and New Flyer) and yet they keep buying “experimental” numbers of buses. I hope this changes soon.

      • Yes, it has been irritating. I also hope it changes very soon.

  • Kyle Field

    What a great opportunity! Exciting to hear that BYD shares the perspective of Tesla that it is too early for the two companies to be fighting each other but rather, are partners in electrifying transport.

    I laughed when I read that you repeatedly asked about the Qin and Tang. Reminded me of the time I asked them over and over about the e6 being sold in earnest in the US 🙂

    • 1) Yes, loved that he responded in almost the exact same way (per the translation).

      2) Yeah, I figured it came across a bit ridiculous on the video, but I could tell if the translator wasn’t getting the question across right, if Chuanfu was brushing it aside, if the other questions were just making them forget about answering it, or what. But **finally** — based on the last answer — seems quite unlikely BYD will bring them over.

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