According to an announcement that Uber made on Friday, the company has just partnered-up with BYD Co Ltd, the Chinese car manufacturer, and will begin testing a brand new fleet of electric cars.
These 25 all-electric, BYD e6 automobiles have been brought straight from China and are currently being tested in Chicago. Both BYD (“Build your Dream”) and Uber hope that the program would eventually expand throughout the nation.
Lauren Altmin, Uber’s spokeswoman noted that the partnership with BYD marks the company’s first attempt at focusing on electric vehicles, especially since potential partners in Chicago have already voiced an interest in the initiative.
It may seem strange that Uber decided to partner up with BYD as opposed to other well-known electric vehicle manufacturers (such as Tesla). The company’s reasoning, it seems, is to offer its drivers the possibility of driving much larger cars than your conventional electric vehicle and the e6 is particularly spacious. In fact, this particular electric vehicle is being used in both London and Hong Kong by chauffer services because of that reason.
Uber has established itself as a service allowing users to use their smartphones so as to summon rides. Although it began in the form of a luxurious town-car service, Uber then added its UberX feature in numerous cities, where personal cars could be used by nonprofessional drivers. It’s precisely this low-frill service that Uber has targeted when acquiring this electric vehicle fleet.
While 25 BYD electric cars are already on Chicago’s streets, being driven by Uber drivers, the company hopes to encourage other drivers to also begin acquiring electric cars. The e6’s will be available through particular Chicago-based dealerships focused on electric and hybrid vehicles and Uber hopes that this initiative will help their drivers buy or lease the cars they require. By the end of 2015, the number of electric vehicles might reach a couple hundred, Doug Snower, auto dealership president hopes.
Uber drivers are offered particularly attractive payment options when considering electric vehicles, including well-known lease-to-own programs. Currently, the majority of Uber drivers seem to prefer the weekly lease option they are offered: $200 for the EV and the possibility of returning the vehicle to the auto dealership’s lot for its daily recharge.
There is one downside where the e6 is concerned: its relatively small single charge range of 186 miles. Model S, for instance, is superior in this respect with a 265-mile range on a single charge.
Despite this apparent setback, BYD hopes that its recent deal with Uber will constitute the push the company needed in order to start selling its product to US consumers. Until now, the e6 vehicle has only participated in pilot programs across the US, as opposed to its direct competitors, Nissan Motor Co Ltd and Tesla Motors Inc.
As one of its preemptive measures, BYD announced that it will be tripling its electric vehicle battery production (especially now that Tesla is also making significant steps towards its gigafactory). Within the following three years, BYD announced, it plans to add 6 gigawatt/h of global production yearly.