On the Hertz stand at the New York auto show, next to a Chevrolet Volte quipped for wireless charging, was a BYD e6 battery car from China. Two of the electric crossovers are on the road in a Hertz rental program in Shenzhen, China, and they're also being readied for fleets in the United States, according to Jack Hidary, the global E.V. leader for Hertz.
"We get a lot of support from the Chinese government," Mr. Hidary said in an interview, explaining part of the E6's attractiveness. Shenzhen governors have fast-tracked the deployment of charging stations, and the city is the only one in China that offered the recently upgraded E6 for sale to retail customers. Also, Shenzhen residents buying electric cars like the E6 are eligible for rebates totaling 120,000 renminbi, or approximately $19,000, Mr. Hidary said. The E6 sells for approximately $58,000 in China, though it is likely to be cheaper in the United States.
According to Rich Broome, a Hertz senior vice president, the company has 600 rental cars in five Chinese cities, but the fleet is expanding and should total 1,500 by the end of 2012.
Micheal Austin, vice president of BYD America, said in a telephone interview that the Hertz electric rental program would expand shortly to Beijing and Shanghai, where similar subsidies were available. "The rental market is still very young in China," he said. "Many of the cars are being rented to chauffeurs."
According to Mr. Austin, Shenzhen will have approximately 500 E6 taxis on the streets, and is converting its entire bus fleet of 1,600 vehicles to plug-in electrics made by BYD. Electric-car buyers are eligible for two free Level II chargers, installed near home and work by the local utility, which offers low nighttime charging rates. The city has more than 100 D.C. fast-charging stations, also made by BYD. The E6, with a large 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack that yields more than 185 miles of range, can be fully charged at those stations in half an hour.
The E6 should be certified for sale in the United States by the end of the year, Mr. Austin said. The cars will initially be offered only to fleet buyers, including Hertz, but consumer sales will begin when the charging network is further developed, he said. "We feel the E6 is clearly ready for the American market," Mr. Broome of Hertz added. "The performance, style and size are all very good."
At the Beijing motor show later this month, BYD is scheduled to unveil an electric car that is the product of its alliance with Daimler. The Mercedes-based vehicle, under the Denza brand name, will have a BYD battery and powertrain and is intended for the Chinese market.
"Daimler's quality engineers have been very helpful, not only in developing the Denza but in improving BYD electric cars," Mr. Austin said.