(Corrects 12th paragraph to say 12,000 diesel-fuelled buses,
not 2,000 buses)
By Lavinia Mo
HONG KONG May 15 Warren Buffett-backed Chinese
carmaker BYD Co Ltd rolled out Hong Kong's
first electric taxi fleet on Wednesday, marking a milestone for
its all-electric battery car that highlights its promise and its
"We expect to increase the number of e6 taxis in Hong Kong
to 5,000 in three years," said Liu Xueliang, general manager of
BYD Asia Pacific sales, after the company announced it is making
a push in the former British colony to encourage the use of its
all-electric e6 taxi.
The Hong Kong Taxi & Public Light Bus Association said it is
renting from BYD an initial fleet of 45 taxis for HK$8,000
($1,000) each per month, although only six vehicles had licences
so far. The association is BYD's only Hong Kong customer to
The e6's use in Hong Kong's taxi fleet points to the
technology's promise as a "zero-tailpipe-emission" vehicle, but
its high cost has resulted in sluggish sales for private use,
the very demand that BYD had been counting on to boost sales.
The e6 sells for 369,800 yuan ($60,200) in mainland China
and HK$448,000 ($57,700) in Hong Kong.
When BYD launched the car a few years ago in China, the e6
was intended for private use on the mainland and in the United
States, but never quite caught on. BYD sold about 1,700 e6
vehicles in China last year, according to industry data.
The e6's failure to prove popular among everyday consumers
is not only bad news for BYD, it illustrates how China's policy
goal of putting 5 million "new-energy" cars on the road by 2020
is not going as planned.
China's central government defines new-energy cars as either
all-electric battery cars or heavily electrified plug-in hybrid
To make up for slow sales of the e6, BYD executives told
Reuters last month it planned to start promoting conventional
gasoline-electric hybrid technology. They said BYD might stop
over the next few years making all-gasoline cars and sell only
electric-assisted cars such as conventional hybrids or
Liu said on Wednesday that two to three new cars in the
pipeline would be hybrids, but he gave no date for their
In addition to promoting the e6 as a taxi, BYD is also
offering the e6 to private consumers in Hong Kong, just an hour
by car from its headquarters in the southern Chinese city of
"If Hong Kong's 18,000 taxis and 12,000 diesel-fuelled buses
are all replaced with electric cars, the reduction of emissions
will be equivalent to that of 800,000 private cars and it will
reduce Hong Kong's emissions by 50 percent," said Wang Chuanfu,
the billionaire engineer who founded BYD.
The launch of the fleet comes as Hong Kong is seeing
increasingly high pollution readings, due in part to the rising
number of cars on the city's already congested roads.
Shares in BYD have tumbled about 60 percent since a late
2009 peak. The stock was up nearly 5 percent on Wednesday at a
two-year high of HK$33.30, beating a 0.4 percent gain for the
benchmark Hang Seng Index.
($1 = 6.1428 Chinese yuan)
($1 = 7.7615 Hong Kong dollars)
(Additional reporting by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by
Norihiko Shirouzu and Matt Driskill)