The B2B market for fleet vehicles in India is not something that’s usually in the limelight. That’s mostly because everything that’s sold there is usually either a previous generation of an existing private market car or a watered-down version designed to a cost and to withstand the rigours of hauling people day-in and day-out.
But BYD (Build Your Dreams), that’s been making buses and other larger electric hauliers in India for close to a decade now, feels differently about the approach to building people-movers. Venturing into the luxury people-mover space, it recently launched its E6 EV MPV at Rs 29 lakh and has its sight set firmly on large corporates, luxury hotels and aggregators looking for something unique to offer in their fleet.
The E6 sports an inoffensive exterior design that’s surprisingly pleasing to the eyes if not a bit vanilla. This is an EV, so there’s no grille but lots of little vents to channel air to the electric motor. The headlamps are sleek double-barrel units while the white shade of our car camouflaged a slight bulge on the bonnet.
There are lots of elements to look at in the profile view that gives this electric MPV a mildly sporty appeal. The wheel arches are slightly flared while the roofline tapers backwards post the D-pillar. There’s also a strong shoulder line as well as these rather funky looking 17-inch wheels which help the car stand out. The rear is a bit feature-less with only one large chrome strip, spoiler and these downward LED facing tail lamps that wrap around the edge and give some character to the overall rear appearance.
The E6 measures in at 4.59-metres with a wheelbase of 2.8-metres. Its major rival the Innova Crysta measures in at 4.73-metres with a wheelbase of 2.75-metres. The Kia Carnival of course is much larger at 5.1-metres with a wheelbase of 3.06-metres. It must be noted that both the Innova and Carnival can be had as both six and seven-seat models while the E6 is five-seat only.
Since its main purpose is a rear seat experience, let’s begin from there. Step in and it's a surprisingly comfortable place with ample room for two or even three normal-sized adults. While headroom and knee room are not an issue, we did find the seat base to be too soft for our liking. However, the glasshouse is large and gives the car an airy feeling all around.
What it has in space it is lacking in a lot of features for the rear occupants. Yes, you get a central air-vent, two USB ports and very small door pockets but that’s about it. There’s no central armrest with cup holders, no seatback pockets, folding rear seats, 1.0-litre bottle holders in both doors and possibly even an option to move the front passenger seat from the left rear. These are all features one would expect from a vehicle of this price category not just in the B2C market but in the B2B market as well. The boot is massive at 580 litres with a flat loading space allowing you to pack in whatever you want, however you want. But, as the rear seats don’t fold down, you are limited to the space visible in the pictures.
The front seats offer similar levels of comfort and have a nice bolstering around the edges to make you feel tucked in place if you were to ever get behind the wheel. In terms of quality, fit and finish, the dashboard has hard grainy plastics but there are soft leather pads on the door armrest which is a place you would be in contact with quite a bit.
BYD has taken the obvious route by using glossy plastics which makes everything look classy but attract fingerprints and dust faster than you would expect. The highlight of the dashboard is a 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system running Android OS and has most of the toppings that come built into a ‘Droid tablet for this purpose. It’s a good quality display with sharp colours and can be used in both landscape and portrait mode thanks to a rotation mechanism built into the mount.
On the safety front, the E6 gets ABS with EBD, four airbags, TPMS ISO-FIX child seat mounting points and a rear-view camera with dynamic guides. There’s even an inbuilt exterior sound that the car emits at speeds of up to 30kmph to warn pedestrians of the car’s presence near them.
The E6 gets one AC Motor mounted in front which powers the front wheels. It has an output of 70kW and 180Nm. The battery pack is a 71.7 kWh unit with a WLTP range of 415km (city and highway) and for the first time in India, it has introduced blade battery technology. It’s been developed by BYD themselves and allows for smaller yet more efficient battery packs (as compared to conventional LION packs) thereby also allowing for safer packaging of the battery packs. If you go for the GLX variant you get 6.6kWh/12 hours full charge, 40kWh AC Type2/2 hours full charge and DC CCS2 60kWh charging that gets you a full charge in 90 minutes. The GL variant only comes with the CCS2 60kWh fast charger option.
The rather small 180Nm of torque means that pick-up is not as powerful as one would come to expect from an electric car and its best if you build up momentum and carry speed for overtaking of any kind. You get two degrees of regeneration with the high mode useful for cities where the stop and go traffic is far more prevalent. In our whole drive experience, the range from this battery pack was the star of the show. At the start of our drive showed a DTE of 500km and the end of a day of testing, shooting and driving in both city and highway only dropped to 375km, leaving us with over 75 per cent charge. We have little doubt that it will easily achieve its full range if charged to 100 per cent. BYD has said that the battery pack uses 76 units for a full charge which at even Rs 12 a unit works out to Rs 912 for a full ‘tank’ which is significantly lower than an ICE vehicle no matter how you look at it.
The E6, being a people-haulier, is aimed at one purpose only – comfort, and that’s what BYD has focussed on. The suspension setup is on the softer side and does its best at city speeds when the going is not too rough. However, it’s not too shabby on a flat highway similar to what we experienced on the East Coast Road outside of Chennai.
It displays good straight-line stability and will let you cruise comfortably if you have minimum turns and undulations on your route. The ground clearance at 170mm (unladen) is not particularly great and a full car will drop even further possibly necessitating you to weave around badly built speed breakers, potholes and imperfections. The steering, despite having two modes and being quite accurate, is devoid of feel, especially in the dead-ahead position. But then again, this car will always have a driver behind the wheel so soft handling dynamics will hardly be a concern for those inducting these cars into their fleet.
What the E6 lacks in features as compared to Innova Crysta and Kia Carnival, it certainly makes up for in space and luggage capacity and massive range. There’s also its novelty value as an electric vehicle among a crop of diesel and petrol-powered cars and that should certainly put it in the view of those looking to add something extra to their fleet.
At present BYD has no plan of entering the B2C market but what this car has showcased looks promising if they plan to get vehicles in the D-segment of the Indian car market. The GLX variant of the BYD E6 has been priced at Rs 29.15 lakh while the more expensive GL variant with fast charging only is priced Rs 71,000 more. BYD offers an eight years/5,00,000km guarantee on the battery pack and a three years/1,25,000km guarantee on the vehicle itself. BYD is currently assembling the cars at its plant outside Chennai via the SKD route and aims to sell 2500 units in the first round of vehicles.