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Uber going electric with BYD

Updated: 2015-03-17 09:55
By LIA ZHU in San Francisco (China Daily USA)

Chinese automobile maker BYD Co Ltd is expected to increase its electric passenger car's presence in the US market following a pilot program with Uber Inc.

So far, about 25 Uber drivers have been operating BYD e6 electric cars in Chicago under a program recently launched by Uber, BYD and local dealership Green Wheels USA, which features electric and hybrid cars.

The BYD e6s "are solid cars with good batteries. It's also bigger with lots of room," said Green Wheels President Doug Snower, who has been doing business with BYD since 2009.

"That's why I wanted to introduce BYD cars to Uber," he said. They had been in talks since December of last year before a deal was reached a few weeks ago.

The e6 was approved by US regulators for sale in March of last year, four years after BYD announced plans to sell the car in the US in 2010, following Warren Buffett's backing, which had come a year earlier.

Green Wheels USA is currently the only dealership in the US through which BYD e6 is available, according to Snower. "We are still in the process of selling the car but we hope to sell more by the end of the year," he said.

Uber drivers can opt to pay $200 a week, with no down payment, to use the car during their shifts.

This deal also marks Uber's first experiment with electric vehicles and it expects to eventually expand the program to other US cities, according to Reuters.

San Francisco-based Uber Inc, through its mobile app-based transportation network, allows consumers to submit a trip request, which is then routed to crowd-sourced taxi drivers.

"It's good for BYD to link its image with one of the Silicon Valley's most dynamic companies," said Yunshi Wang, co-director of the US-China Zero Emission Vehicle Policy Lab at UC, Davis.

"It will certainly help BYD sell its EVs (electric vehicles) and the e6 can be followed by BYD's other models as well," he said.

Uber is connected with new technologies and innovations, said Wang, linking with Uber could bring more exposure to BYD's electric cars.

In addition, the data collected by Uber can serve as a study reference for BYD, he added.

According to the program's advertising posted by BYD Motors, the company's US branch, on its Facebook page, BYD's e6 can run up to 186 miles on a single charge and it can be leased to own or on shorter term leases.

BYD Motors spokesman Matthew Jurjevich declined to comment.

Although BYD's electric taxi e6 is only being used in a pilot program, its electric bus k9 has already been making tracks on California roads.

Stanford University has deployed 13 k9 buses on its campus, and in Southern California, BYD delivered another two k9s to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority in April of last year.

Snower told China Daily that his company was "close" to striking a BYD electric bus deal. "We anticipate selling the buses soon," he said, without disclosing any more details.



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