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Coming to America: The Chinese BYD e6

I’ve seen my fair share of eccentric things in my northwest Chicago neighborhood of Logan Square — Chicago’s hipster equivalent to Williamsburg, Brooklyn — impromptu 2 a.m. marching bands, anonymous midday drive-by eggings and vehicle fires that firefighters never come to put out.

One of the strangest is my encounter with the BYD e6, a relatively large, Chinese-made electric crossover with a reported range of up to 186 miles. This vehicle hasn’t appeared at a U.S. trade show for nearly two years, and it hasn’t really been mentioned by the automotive media — until now. Not only did I see the e6 at a small, nondescript purveyor of quirky EVs, but I was able to drive it, too.

For those rusty on Chinese cars, the BYD e6 was one of the few vehicles that actually had (and reportedly still does have) a good chance of coming to the States. BYD — short for Build Your Dreams — is one of China’s largest, privately run automakers. It’s also one of the largest suppliers of rechargeable batteries.
The e6 at Green Wheels, an electric- and hybrid-vehicle supplier and maintenance facility, is part of BYD’s strategy to test the U.S. waters. “This is probably the only one in the country,” said Doug Snower, owner of Green Wheels. This e6 has been making the rounds; it had just returned from a Berkshire Hathaway get-together in Omaha, Neb. Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett bought a nearly 10% share in BYD in 2009 based off the company’s then-strong prospects.


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