75 kW or 130 hp?
On the road, the BYD e6 moves away from rest smoothly and predictably, but with increasing whine from the drive motor and power electronics. The drivetrain whine was more noticeable from the front seats than in the rear.
In Normal mode, acceleration is limited to about 75 horsepower, making the car feel heavy and ponderous. Switch to Sport mode, however, and the peak power indicated at 130 hp is unleashed, meaning the e6 moves out smartly and has enough mid-range acceleration for fast-moving urban traffic.
The current BYD e6 has a large 60-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, and its motor was quoted at an output of 75 kilowatts.
That translates to 100 hp, which makes the 130-hp rating we saw on the dash somewhat perplexing–unless the 75 kW is a sustained power rating, with short peaks possible at the higher output.
BYD representatives quoted a 180-mile range, which they said was derived from the Chinese urban and highway efficiency rating cycle.
Ride turns harsh quickly
The brake pedal has a mushy feel, with regenerative braking only engaging in the bottom half of its travel. The ride is good on smooth pavement, but quickly turns harsh as road surfaces get rough.
Bumps weren’t absorbed particularly smoothly, and BYD would likely benefit from some sophisticated spring-rate and damper engineering to make the ride more forgiving.
There’s also a certain amount of drivetrain flexibility, so that in some combinations of acceleration and braking, steering feedback and power delivery can change abruptly. We experienced a loud, unexpected “clunk” from the right front suspension during braking, but couldn’t repeat it.
Four right-hand turns around a loop of less than 2 miles gave us no meaningful opportunity to test the BYD e6 handling, but accelerating hard out of a corner at 20 mph was enough to make the front tires both squeal and lose traction.
Interior quality lacking
The biggest drawback of the e6 from a passenger’s point of view is the workmanship of the interior. While it looks good from a distance, myriad details show that BYD isn’t close to approaching the global quality standards of a Toyota, Volkswagen, or General Motors.
A wiring bundle covered in bright orange plastic cladding protruded from under the driver’s seat into the left-rear passenger’s footwell, simply lying on the carpet–the kind of detail that wouldn’t make it past the first review in any vehicle program from a major global maker.
Wrinkles in the headliner where it tucked behind door moldings, unfinished surfaces plainly visible next to neatly covered ones, and many other little flaws conveyed a general sloppiness in the small details.
It gave the BYD e6 the interior appearance of a car whose designers closely imitated a modern car from a major automaker without really understanding the hard work that goes into making interiors close to perfect.
We noted that windshield, door, and roof pillars all carried airbag logos–suggesting that the BYD e6 has at least eight airbags (counting two in the dash).
BYD reps said the e6 comes with a 3.3-kW built-in charger–which seems insufficient for a 60-kWh pack–and also a 10-kW charger that uses the Chinese DC fast-charging standard, which is incompatible with both the Japanese CHAdeMO and the North American/ European SAE Combo standards.
BYD now says the e6 will arrive on the U.S. market in 2013, with first sales to fleets. We’ll believe it when we see it, as we think BYD has some more development work to do before the electric crossover will be widely acceptable to U.S. buyers.
Our test drive came during a ride-and-drive event held at the 26th annual Electric Vehicle Symposium, which wrapped up today in Los Angeles. The next EVS will be in Barcelona in November 2013.
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