China’s BYD (Build Your Dreams) carmaker is betting on being able to more than triple its electric vehicle sales this year to more than 8,000 vehicles, including more than 2,000 electric buses.
The rest will be mainly aimed at the taxi cab industry. Last year, the Warren Buffett-backed company sold just 1,700 electric cars and 700 electric buses.
"We feel that the use of electric vehicles in public transport is the first step and a more realistic way to promote and popularize the products," Liu Xueliang, general manager for Asia-Pacific vehicle sales at BYD, told the Wall Street Journal during a tour of the company's production facilities in southern China.
"With the more widespread use of our electric cars in public transport, we can further promote them to government organisations and retail car buyers," Mr. Liu said.
BYD already has several hundred electric taxicabs and buses operating in Shenzhen under partnerships with local firms, and hopes to expand the programme elsewhere.
Mr Liu revealed to the publication, that the company will, from next month, announce plans regarding the introduction of BYD’s electric vehicles in Hong Kong, as its first major market outside of China. The firm is also planning to introduce electric taxis in London from later this year (see story). Other cities in Europe, Southeast Asia and South America might also see the arrival of electric BYD vehicles.
While BYD’s electric cars have so far failed to ignite mass market interest, it is hoped that the Chinese government’s renewed concern about air pollution will help stoke demand for clean transport products. Following the launch of its first electric car, the e6 in 2011, BYD’s electric car sales have only managed to secure less than 1 per cent of the firm’s total car sales last year.
China has plans to reduce emissions by putting 500,000 electric and plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015 and five million by 2020. To achieve this, the Chinese government is offering incentives to buyers of ultra-low emission vehicles. For the e6, the government will provide a subsidy of 120,000 yuan (about £12,717) for each model sold, worth around a third of car's listed retail price of 370,000 yuan (about £39,210).
That should help kickstart electric car sales for the carmaker, and others too.