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A people’s mover that’s electric, yet practical

S. Muralidhar | Updated on: Dec 24, 2021
BYD e6 vehicle

BYD e6 vehicle

Backside view of BYD-e6 vehicle

Backside view of BYD-e6 vehicle

Is the BYD e6 the EV that institutional and fleet buyers have been waiting for?

The MPV (multiple-purpose vehicle) segment hasn’t seen a flurry of new launches. But it has had a steady trickle of new entrants, many who have fallen by the wayside. Of course, a few continue to be favourites in the fleet segment and a few others in the individual buyers’ category. But, it is only the Toyota Innova that has managed to continue to appeal to both the class of buyers; and that too despite its price climbing well past the ₹20 lakh mark.

 

Into this segment comes the latest entrant with an unlikely mix of attributes – it’s an all-electric, 5-seater from a hitherto unheard Chinese brand. BYD’s e6 is, interestingly, also not going to try and take a swing at the small, but growing, the population of individual EV buyers. Instead, the e6 is being launched exclusively for the institutional, corporate fleet and taxi segments. So, for now, only taxi operators, companies that want to set up a network of EVs for internal use and small enterprises can buy the e6. BYD officials say that there is no immediate plan to open sales for individual buyers.

BYD has been in India since 2004 and it has been selling electric buses to state transport undertakings for about eight years. It also represents the BYD group’s other Indian businesses in solar panels, mobile components, batteries, energy storage systems and other EV machinery. It has an assembly facility in Sriperumbudur, near Chennai, where the e6 is assembled after being imported in SKD form. This also means that the number of units of the e6 that BYD can hope to sell in a year is limited to 2,500.

 

Design

First off, the basics about the BYD e6. It is a 5-seater MPV; no other seat configuration is offered. Unlike some of the newbies in the segment that are essentially elongated SUVs, the e6 also sports a classic MPV profile, though there are no sliding doors at the rear. Instead, all four doors are large and open wide. In terms of dimensions, at 4,695 mm, the e6 is just a couple of inches smaller in length than the Toyota Innova Crysta, but its wheelbase of 2,800 mm is a couple of inches more than the Innova. That, for a 5-seater, must mean only one thing – more space in the cabin and the boot. BYD says that the cavernous boot has a rated luggage room of 580-litres; that’ll certainly help its target buyer segment.

The e6’s design is not aggressive or sporty. It’s different but won’t stand out in a crowd. The design is clean and of course, there are elements that point to this being electric. The good part is that this is a BEV meant for institutional buyers, and yet its design and features don’t give away any sense of it being built to a price. LED daytime running lights and LED rear combination lamps are standard, peeled back headlamps with twin projectors and a grille that offers a simple, but elegantly perforated look at the front makes it a fairly good looking MPV. There are a lot of chrome elements too, including the grille frame that connects the headlamps at the front, the window frame at the side and the wide chrome garnish at the rear connecting the tail lamps. The e6 also gets 17-inch alloy shod with 215/ 55 R17 tyres.

The roofline is set low and rises gradually in an upward arc creating a small quarter glass just below the A-pillar. Together with stalked door mirrors, this small glass section offers a small reduction in the blind spot. The e6’s ground clearance is a decent 170 mm. Battery pack clearance is said to be 205 mm.

 

Cabin

The e6’s interior is neither spartan nor plush. There is an air of cleanliness and modernity to the cabin when I let the fit and finish sink in. The most important element in the cabin is the rotatable 25.65cm infotainment touchscreen, which can be used in portrait or landscape mode. Apparently, screen real estate is a big deal amongst EV buyers. The e6 certainly doesn’t score big on that front, but there is still a novelty to the screen. Most controls, including the aircon, have been built into the 10.1-inch screen. It currently offers Bluetooth and Wifi connectivity; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity may come at a later date.

The instrument cluster is a pair of analogue-dials and a MID digital unit in the middle. One of the dials simply points to the discharge/regen cycle for the battery and the other is a speedometer; though, the dial’s 240 kmph marking has no connection to the e6’s top speed which is restricted to 130 kmph. The MID offers real-time readouts for the number of kWh consumed per 100 kms driven (average mileage in EV lingo), the battery’s state of charge, driving mode, battery range (distance to empty) etc.

BYD’s brochure says that the steering wheel and seats are clad in leather, but my test mule’s seat covers felt like leatherette. The cabin’s finish quality is good. There is quite a lot of plastic all around, but by breaking the monotony using faux wood, metal inserts and contoured panels, BYD designers have managed to still retain an air of premiumness. Shiny plastic bits are a bit tacky but the material quality is not suspect. The centre console just houses the drive-related controls along with a high/ low button for choosing two levels of regen assistance. The rotary drive selector knob is intuitive and simple to use. Steering is adjustable for reach and rake. Both driver and co-passenger seats offer six-way adjustment. I felt that the rear seat squabs could have been a bit more generous, given that a lot of passengers in the e6 are going to be seated there. But there is a lot of legroom and dedicated air vents should keep them comfortable. The aircon also gets a medical-grade CN95 air filtration system for purifying cabin air. Another interesting feature in the cabin is the seat-belt reminder for all five seats.

Power train

The BYD e6’s biggest draw will be its battery range. Company officials claim that multiple test cycles have returned a range per charge of over 400 kms in real-world conditions. The MPV features a 71.7 kWh battery pack, amongst the largest available in a PV currently in India. The power is fed to the front wheels via a 70 kW electric motor that also delivers a peak torque of 180 Nm. The rated driving range is 520 kms in the city and 415 kms combined (WLTC). During my test drive of over 195 kms; a combination of city and highway driving done over eight hours, the e6’s battery still displayed an available range of 257 kms. There are no drive modes to choose from, just a two-step variation in battery regen. Eco mode is default and regen braking happens from as low as 2 kmph. BYD officials say that the battery in the e6 is a big deal. The blade battery tech used for the lithium-ion phosphate chemistry is said to make it one of the safest in the EV industry. While the cells are said to offer high energy density, the battery is also claimed to have passed the nail-penetration test – one of the most stringent in the business. The battery supports both AC and DC charging and is said to be consistently efficient even if charged consecutively using a DC charger.

A regular 15A socket AC wall charger will take over 12 hours, but DC fast charging can deliver an 80 per cent charge in as low as 35 minutes. BYD is offering the e6 with an optional 6.6 kW charger. But it has also developed a unique 40 kW AC charger that is compact, fast and doesn’t need the extra cooling equipment that DC chargers require.

The e6’s cabin is predictably quiet and there is only a generated mechanical whine that sets in while driving at speeds of up to 30 kmph (for pedestrian safety). The ride is well sorted for the most part even at 3-digit speeds. The suspension includes McPherson struts for the front and a multi-link set up for the rear. The BYD e-platform on which it is built is a classic skateboard platform with an underfloor battery pack set up. Stability shouldn’t be an issue. With disc brakes all around, the braking performance is also pretty good. In city traffic, pre-emptive regen braking should be enough for the most part.

Bottom line

It is good to see that the BYD e6 also gets a long list of safety features as standard. Four airbags, ISOFIX mounts, tyre pressure monitoring, traction control, ESP, and a brake override system are all standard.

BYD is offering the e6 in two trim variants – GL and GLX, with the difference being only in the charging function (with or without the proprietary AC fast charging). The vehicle will be available in eight Indian cities initially, including Delhi NCR and Chennai, at a starting ex-showroom price of ₹29.15 lakh for eligible institutional buyers. At that price, there are more feature-loaded ICE options to choose from, but the e6 is a fair compromise for an EV. The BYD e6 won’t qualify for FAME subsidies, but depending on the city it is registered in, there could be State exemptions for road tax and registration charges.

Published on December 24, 2021

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