The BYD name is well known in South Africa for all the wrong reasons. The company secured a much-talked-about R128 million tender to supply electric buses to Cape Town back in August 2016 and, while the buses have been delivered, the entire deal remains mired in controversy. Allegations of corruption, maladministration and the unsuitability of the vehicles have been running rampant.

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So yes, BYD has become a household name. However, what most South Africans probably don’t realise is the extent of this enormous Chinese company. It does a lot more than manufacture electric buses. But let’s kick off with a bit of its utterly fascinating history (in fairness, an entire article could be written just about this subject).

The company – BYD stands for “Build Your Dreams” – was started in February 1995 by a Chinese chap called Wang Chuanfu. According to Forbes, he now has a current net worth of $3.8 billion (about R56,47 billion) – largely thanks to the success of BYD, which is now China’s largest producer of electric vehicles. This is quite some feat considering the fact that it started out as a battery maker (it’s currently the world’s largest producer of lithium iron phosphate batteries) and only entered the automobile business as recently as 2003.

The facts and figures pertaining to BYD today are simply mind-boggling: it employs 220 000 people (quite some growth from the 20 employees back in 1995) and it produces a highly diverse product range – anything and everything from electronics to trains. It’s constantly coming up with new products; as of June 2019, BYD had submitted applications for over 26 000 patent rights and owned about 17 000 patents.

BYD seems to go from strength to strength. Total revenue was around RMB 130.06 billion (about R276 billion) in 2018. In the first half of 2019, it rose to RMB 62.184 billion (about R131 billion), 14.84% higher than the same period the previous year. In fact, the sky seems to be the limit for this massively successful company, which just landed Europe’s largest ever electric bus order (it will deliver 259 pure-electric, 100% emissions-free BYD eBuses to Keolis Nederland BV, the Dutch subsidiary of global public transport provider, Keolis, in mid-2020).

Next step: electric trucks

In 2016, BYD entered the electric truck market – it’s already launched the trucks in China, North and South America, Australia, and Brazil. Now BYD’s electric truck range will be launched in Europe in 2020 and ultimately in South Africa.

A total of three members of the BYD electric truck range will be up for grabs: a 2.6-tonne panel van, a 19-tonne rigid, and a yard tractor.

The panel van will be powered by a combination of BYD’s long life 50.3kWh BYD NMC battery and an electric motor with a rated power of 35kW. The powertrain offers a combined maximum of 100kW of power and maximum torque of 180Nm, with a top speed of 100km/h. The van has a range of 360km and it can be charged in 90 minutes with the use of a 40kW DC charging unit. Using a standard 6.6kW AC charger, the van can be fully recharged in 7.8 hours.

The van measures 4 460mm in length, it is 1 720mm wide, it has a load capacity of 920kg, the loading volume inside the van is 3.5m3 and it seats two people.

The 19-tonne rigid is equipped with a 217kWh BYD iron-phosphate battery that can be charged in 2.5 hours (when using a DC 120kW high capacity charging unit) or 5.5 hours (using an AC 40kW device). When combined with an electric motor, the truck boasts maximum power of 180kW and maximum torque of 1 500Nm.

The truck has a capacity of 11 100kg and a range of 200km. The interior – which features an 8.8-inch screen set into the truck’s dashboard as well as a 10.1-inch tablet that handles BYD’s D-Link infotainment system – looks very snappy.

Designed for operation at airports and ports, the yard tractor has a towing capacity of 36 tonnes and can operate continuously for up to 10 hours on a single charge. Fitted with the 217kW BYD iron-phosphate battery, the yard tractor can be fully charged in two hours, using a high capacity DC 120kW charging unit. It boasts maximum power of 180kW, 1 000Nm of torque, and a top speed of 47km/h.

The panel van and yard tractor will go on sale in Europe in 2020, while the rigid (and a 7.5-tonne medium commercial vehicle; we don’t have any specific details of this truck yet) will be launched at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hannover in September 2020. No pricing has been announced yet however, knowing the Chinese, the vehicles will be extremely competitively priced.

And when do they arrive in South Africa? We don’t have an exact date yet. “There is a plan for launching the electric truck in South Africa, but the exact details of the strategy, such as the timeline, are not available at this moment. The details of the plan will be disclosed in due time,” a BYD spokesperson has told us.

So, there you have it. The Electric Trucks are coming; we just don’t know when!

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