China’s BYD defends electric vehicle after fiery accident
HONG KONG, May 29 — A Warren Buffett-backed Chinese automaker, BYD Co Ltd, sought to defend the safety of its electric car today as police investigated the cause of a deadly accident in which one of its vehicles caught fire.
BYD, whose shares plunged as much as nine per cent yesterday on news of the accident in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, said it was cooperating with police and believed the accident would not jeopardise the development of its new energy business.
Media reported yesterday that a Nissan GT-R crashed into the BYD e6 taxi at high speed early on Saturday.
The all-electric battery car caught fire and three people were killed, media said, citing police. It was no clear if the victims were killed by the impact or by the fire.
BYD said the taxi was hit by a luxury sports car from behind travelling at no less than 180 kph, causing significant damage to the taxi.
“After multiple rounds of crash and spinning, the car body was badly distorted and later turned into fire,” BYD said in a statement.
“Any vehicles undergoing multiple crashes and spinning like the one in the May 26 traffic accident will result in great danger for the passengers and driver, even gasoline-powered vehicles might burn.”
Though it was unclear why the BYD car caught fire, if it is determined that its lithium-ion battery was to blame, the accident could have an impact on not only BYD but on the global auto industry.
Many automakers have embraced electric cars and plug-in hybrid cars, most of which rely on technology similar to the BYD’s, as a possible long-term alternative to gasoline-fuelled automobiles.
A BYD executive who declined to be identified said police were likely to bring in a third-party expert on advanced battery technology to help investigate the cause of the fire.
BYD said the e6 car had been fully tested in line with Chinese national standards and approved by inspection agencies contracted by the government.
“It has passed the national crash test and complies with all government’s regulations,” the company said in its statement.
“The batteries for the BYD e6 have withstood crash tests by authoritative agencies of the government, and during the test they did not catch fire even when 50 per cent of the battery modules were deformed, which is in line with national standards.”
Shares of BYD rebounded 5.6 per cent today, while its Shenzhen shares recouped most of its Monday losses and were up two per cent.
But analysts said there was a concern that the accident might damage confidence in BYD’s other models.
“Electric cars account for a very small portion of BYD’s sales and the worry is whether it will affect sales of its other cars,” said Ken Lee, an analyst at UOB Kay Hian.
BYD said it was waiting for the accident report and it expressed its condolences for the victims.
The Shenzhen-based battery and auto producer is working with Germany’s Daimler AG to develop a luxury electric car based on the e6 under a new brand called Denza for the Chinese market. — Reuters