6 Things to Know About BYD: The World’s Fourth Largest Electric Vehicle Producer

When people talk about electric cars, most think of Tesla, Ford or Rimac. But there is one automaker that many have never heard of: BYD. Although relatively unknown in the western hemisphere, this Chinese company is the world’s fourth largest manufacturer of plug-in electric vehicles.

With nearly 600,000 cars sold in 2021, BYD holds 9.1% of the global electric car market, behind Tesla (14.4%), Volkswagen (11.7%) and SAIC (10.5%). So what exactly is BYD, and will we soon find its cars on our roads?

1. BYD made the first production plug-in hybrid car

Many people know that the first hybrid car was the Toyota Prius and the first mass-produced electric car was GM’s EV1. However, BYD is the first automaker to create a plug-in hybrid.

It launched the F3DM (Dual-Mode) in December 2008, based on the BYD F3 compact sedan. Although its front fascia closely resembles a 2002 Toyota Corolla and its rear resembles the Asian-only Honda City, it has a unique heart (or three).

The F3DM has two electric motors: a main electric motor that drives the wheels and another secondary motor that can either send power to the wheels or pick it up via regenerative braking. And once the battery reaches 20% or less, its one-litre, three-cylinder engine takes over to recharge it.

The car has a theoretical range of 100 kilometers in all-electric mode and a maximum of 480 kilometers in hybrid mode. Depending on their preferences, drivers can switch between all-electric and plug-in hybrid modes.

Another surprising fact about the F3DM is that the city of Los Angeles leased ten of these vehicles from 2010 to 2011.

2. BYD sold more electric vehicles than Tesla in the first half of 2022

One of the indicators of success in the automotive industry is turnover. The more cars sold, the more successful a business is considered. And speaking of sales, you’ll be surprised to learn that BYD sold more cars than Tesla from January to June 2022.

According to Statista, Tesla sold 564,750 vehicles in the first and second quarters of 2022. But during the same period, BYD sold about 641,000, as SCMP reports. That means it sold 13% more vehicles than Tesla in the first half of 2022 alone.

And while some might be surprised by this number, it’s important to remember that BYD’s primary market, China, is the largest automotive market in the world.

3. BYD sells electric buses and trucks in the United States

Although BYD is not a well-known sedan and SUV manufacturer in the United States, they are more prevalent in commercial vehicles and buses. In fact, several elementary school districts in California are acquiring all-electric school buses to serve their students.

According to BYD’s website, it deploys more than 1,000 BYD electric buses in the United States, and its customers have already traveled more than 18.2 million miles. The company also offers electric trucks to its US customers, with its “Hard at Work” models eligible for California incentives.

4. BYD has factories in North America

All of the buses BYD sells in the United States are manufactured at its Lancaster, California plant. The company has a 550,000 square foot facility operated by its 750 unionized workers. This manufacturing center opened in 2013 and has since expanded to increase production capacity.

The company also opened another bus plant in Newmarket, Ontario in 2019 to fulfill Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) bus orders. According to electrive.com, the TTC has ordered 20 electric buses from BYD for evaluation. After comparing it with other competitors, he plans to order 300 additional electric buses for his fleet.

And while those two plants currently only make buses, they can quickly expand to accommodate other models, like electric trucks, that BYD is ramping up sales in California.

5. BYD no longer sells conventionally powered cars

Many manufacturers plan to phase out their all-internal combustion models by a later date. For Jaguar, it’s 2025; for Cadillac, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, it is 2030; and for Chevrolet, it’s by 2035.

However, BYD beat them all to the punch. It’s because BYD ended production of its internal combustion engine cars in 2022, with the last petrol car rolling off the line in March 2022.

This means BYD has enough confidence in its ability to sell hybrid and all-electric vehicles. It no longer sees the need to sell internal combustion models for its survival, even though it does not sell light passenger vehicles in North America. That says a lot about its core market, which Business Insider says is the world’s largest EV market by passenger car sales.

6. Warren Buffett invested in BYD, not Tesla

Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, chose to invest in BYD, a Chinese company, rather than Elon Musk’s Tesla. In 2008, Buffet, through his investment firm Berkshire Hathaway, purchased 225 million shares of BYD at HK$8 per share, which cost HK$1.8 billion, or approximately $230 million.

Meanwhile, Musk was building the first Tesla Roadster and running into trouble. When the 2008 financial crisis hit the United States, the CEO of Tesla had to sell his McLaren and other assets to help keep his business afloat.

Although Tesla eventually climbed out of this hole, produced innovative products like the Tesla Model S Plaid, and became one of the most beloved companies in the world, it was not a given at that time. That’s why Buffett and his partner, Charlie Munger, chose to invest in BYD.

According to a CnTechPost article, Munger saw an opportunity in BYD because he understood how it worked (unlike Tesla, which relied on Musk, who often puts public shows on Twitter) and knew China’s desire to become big in the electric vehicle industry.

Will BYD offer serious competition to Tesla?

Given geopolitical tensions between the US and China in the early 2020s, BYD is unlikely to gain a foothold in the US anytime soon. However, it is making waves in its home market, China.

Although it only got 3.5% of the total car market share in China, it grabbed 20% of the plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle market. And with enrollment growing at breakneck speed (up 176% year-over-year in 2022), you can expect BYD to grow commensurately.

And unless Tesla gains a foothold in the huge Chinese market, chances are BYD will beat it at its own game in just a few years.

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