Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Burning Electric Car Engulfed Three Lives On Board

It is not uncommon to see Communist China government cover up any accidents, regardless of where the fault laid on. However, even veteran reporters were surprised by the swift ban on reporting of a multi-car accident in Shenzhen of Guangdong Province. Within an hour of the accident, traffic cops were deleting reporters photos, and news outlets were issued a gag order.

There was not much debate over the cause of the accident on May 26. A drunk and speeding Nissan GTR hit two cars. The driver and three passengers on the GTR suffered no injuries. Police issued photos of the driver with a single band-aid on his forehead, presumably from the airbag release, but the band-aid was absent a few hours later. Three passengers were not hurt at all. However, the driver of a taxi hit by the GRT was killed when his BYD E6 was engulfed in flames, along with two passengers. The GTR hit another car before it stopped on the road. There is no casualty on the third car.

A question is raised regarding safety of BYD's electric car. The local government deployed 300 E6 model electric cars as taxis as a showcase for Shenzhen's technology capacity.

BYD, a battery maker, was known to the world as the rising star in making electric vehicles from scratch. Although the advocate from central government seems to come to a halt since last year, the manufacture rallied enough support in the local government. The industry has long been curious on BYD's success in overcoming two major obstacles in developing full electric vehicles: cost of battery and fire safety. Some speculation points that BYD did not solve the cost issue of low producing ratio of batteries. Instead, BYD relied on mass labor to comb through batteries to pick out good ones. The incident may be seen as a major blow to BYD's claim of battery safety, especially under abuse, such as in a moderate collision.

Last May, Media reported BYD dismissed over 1000 employees and cut off a retail network for mini-cars. November, the Ministry of Land and Resources of China canceled a BYD project in Shannxi Province. Fourteen officials of local and provincial levels were disciplined.

Warren Buffett famously invested in BYD, a booster for believers in BYD and electric vehicles alike. For readers interested in studying Chinese entrepreneurship, BYD provide a typical trace of a rising course. The company started as a battery maker in 1995. Echoing the government's call for new energy cars, BYD secured government support after it announced it had grasped key technology in electric vehicle manufacturing. However, only several hundred electric cars had been delivered since the inception of an auto division in 2003. Instead, the company become one of the largest traditional car makers, taking advantage government policies tailored for electric car makers. The company then getting into fields of solar energy, also in response to government police steering. Most recently, the company added mobile communication into its profile.

BYD claimed that because the accident was so sever, ordinary gasoline car would also have failed to protect its occupants in similar condition. BYD's stock price bounced back Monday after initial setback.

Shenzhen is one of six 'New Energy Cars Test Cities' designated by the central government, along Beijing, Shanghai, Changchun, Hangzhou and Hefei. Shenzhen government is on schedule to deploy another 500 E6 taxis by the end of June.

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