The Renaults and Nissans of the world have been leading the march with mainstream electric vehicle technology, but they’re not the only ones at it. There is a handful of smaller companies, without the might of a recognised badge behind them, that have bought into the concept, one of which is BYD.

You could be forgiven for dismissing the Chinese brand as yet another green campaigner in what, in that respect, has become an overcrowded market. But what’s worth noting is the fact that the firm is, at present, exclusively targeting the corporate arena in the UK.

It currently has one vehicle available on a trial basis, the E6 – a large, MPV-type model with a full-electric drivetrain and an official range of 186 miles – which is aimed squarely at large commercial operators, as managing director Isbrand Ho explains: “We’re targeting the fleet operators because this vehicle is really designed with the commercial application in mind.

“So, for example, the NHS, Fedex, the postal services – those would be the ideal candidates for the application, so we’re concentrating and working closely with these operators.”

Originally a battery technology specialist, the company makes no secret of the fact that the car itself has come second to the technology beneath it.

Ho says electric vehicles have been around for 100 years, so are nothing new.

Isbrand Ho BYD“Over the course of that 100 years there have been many failures with electric vehicles and every time it’s the battery – that is the shortcoming of electric vehicles.

“This is the first time in history that a battery manufacturer is putting, and I quote, ‘standard components’ onto the battery. We took the brake system, the headlights, the windshield, the seats, the infotainment system – these are all off-the-shelf items. They’ve been developed by Volkswagen, Toyota, BMW, Kia – thousands of manufacturers over the course of the last 50 or 70 years.

“We’re not inventing the wheel; what we’re doing is we’re concentrating on developing a better battery, the drive system.” 

The vehicles are currently operating on a trial basis in the UK and are not yet officially on sale, so full costs have yet to be established. A P11D figure in the region of £40,000 has been mooted but not confirmed. 

BYD already has one 50-vehicle trial arrangement in place with minicab and private hire firm Green Tomato cars, which specialises in low CO2/alternative-fuel transport in London.

The company isn’t planning to take over the world though, and has modest aspirations for initial sales, as Ho explains: “We’re targeting very conservatively within the next 12-18 months of getting 3000 vehicles on the road – in the UK and the Continent. And we believe that with the interest we’ve had recently, it’s very possible.”

Although the E6 is the only car the company is offering at the moment, it is planning to take on the upper end of the market with the introduction of classier version later on.

“We do have more luxurious models available and we may be introducing those models into the UK market, but these are all based on the E6,” says Ho, who adds that elements such as better soundproofing and a more upmarket cabin would typify such models, but claims that they would only be introduced to the UK after an assessment of the initial model’s performance.

E 6 Interior 2

On the road with the BYD E6

A blocky, cube of a car, the E6 is, in fact, a collage of numerous other established vehicles.

As managing director Isbrand Ho explains above, more than a few components have been cannibalised from established manufacturers – most obviously the Toyota switchgear in the cabin – the idea being that BYD is better versed in battery tech than it is in car design.

Being a functional, far-Eastern vehicle decked out for commercial use, interior quality and finish is a long way south of what you’d expect from a modern passenger car. The payoff is the amount of available space in the rear – there’s heaps of head and legroom, which will suit the private hire fraternity down to the ground. 

As is the case with other electric vehicles BusinessCar has tested, the E6 has rapid initial acceleration because all the pulling power is available from the off. It keeps up the momentum as well if not better than most other pure electric cars too – until you get to any sort of hill, at which point it begins to struggle. Lacking an engine, it’s obviously quiet, and the ride proved relatively comfortable, if a little prone to body roll.

It’s a long way from exciting from a driver’s perspective, but there’s no reason that the E6 shouldn’t perform well in the low-speed/mileage commercial fleets at which it is aimed.