BYD eyes European electric truck market

Battery-powered refuse-collection trucks made by BYD (Build Your Dreams), a huge and fast-growing multinational electric vehicle manufacturer based in China, could soon be on sale in Europe for the first time.

Speaking recently at the company’s head office in Shenzhen, China, BYD Europe managing director Isbrand Ho confirmed that the refuse-collection sector of the European truck market had been identified as a prime target for further European expansion.

Isbrand Ho, managing director of BYD Europe
Isbrand Ho, managing director of BYD Europe

Building on buses

Since first starting European operations about eight years ago, BYD has concentrated solely here on pure electric (battery-powered) buses, though cars, vans and trucks are included in its extensive product line-up in China.

In a joint venture with Alexander Dennis (ADL), the UK’s top-selling bus manufacturer, BYD chassis and electric drivelines are bodied by ADL at its factory in Falkirk, Scotland. BYD’s first wholly-owned bus assembly plant in Europe, near Beauvais in northern France, began operating in March 2017, assembling complete buses mainly for the French market.

Only a month or two later came the opening of a much larger manufacturing plant in Komarom, northern Hungary. This site has the capacity to manufacture up to 400 vehicles a year and includes a battery test and maintenance centre, plus a paint shop as well as bus and truck assembly lines.

BYD and ADL electric double-deck buses for Londo
BYD/ADL electric double-deck buses for London

Finding a joint venture partner

This almost certainly is where production of European-specification BYD electric trucks would start, though Ho emphasises that much depends on finding a joint venture truck partner in Europe, not least to provide the after-sales support demanded by truck operators.

Ho will not be drawn on discussions he is understood to have had already with potential joint-venture partners in the European truck market, but the UK’s Dennis Eagle, based in Warwick, is thought to be a front-runner.

Dennis Eagle, the UK’s top-selling manufacturer of refuse-collection trucks, has been part of the Netherlands-based Terberg group for the past two years. Typical domestic refuse collection truck work patterns make them more suitable than most trucks for fully-electric drivelines.

BYD makes no secret of ambitions to grow fast in both the European bus and truck markets. Weiye Lin is head of the company’s newly established European e-bus research and development division, based at the European head office in Rotterdam, Netherlands. This division was set up in March with a team of 10 engineers transferred from China.

Now Lin is seeking to recruit more engineers locally in Europe, mainly from Germany, Italy, Netherlands and UK. The main purpose of the European research and development operation, according to Lin, is to “learn from European competitors, to support bids for tenders (from bus operators) and to find more suppliers in Europe.”

Weiye Lin, head of BYD Europe e-bus R&D
Weiye Lin, head of BYD Europe e-bus R&D

A new UK head office

BYD’s presence in the UK bus market was strengthened two months ago with the opening of a purpose-built workshop and UK head office at Iver, Buckinghamshire.

Among the newly-recruited employees based there is Paul Savage who worked for the Daimler group’s Evobus division in the UK for the past 15 years, latterly as key account manager. At BYD UK, Savage reports to aftersales manager Mark Brady, another former Evobus UK employee.

BYD electric buses first went into service in the UK five years ago. Now there are about 200 in operation here, mainly in London but also in Nottingham and Liverpool. BYD UK has been headed for the past two years by Frank Thorpe, former head of bus systems at GKN’s Hybrid Power division.

“We have chosen a new location which is very convenient to our current customer base in London yet easily accessible to all parts of the UK,” he says.

“As we grow sales, both inside the M25 and across the country, we need to offer first-class service and parts facilities. Our new Iver location will deliver this for us.”

As part of the latest Metroline/Transport for London (TfL) order for 68 battery-powered double-deckers, BYD and Alexander Dennis (ADL) are preparing to deliver 37 by the second quarter of next year. The 10.9-metre-long BYD/ADL Enviro 400EV double-decker is the result of co-operation between ADL’s body-manufacturing base in Falkirk and BYD’s research and development centre in Shenzhen.

Metroline already runs a fleet of 23 BYD/ADL Enviro 200 single-deckers. “Our joint team has made tremendous progress in winning tenders for TfL routes across the capital with our 10.8- and 12-metre single-deckers,” says BYD Europe boss Isbrand Ho.

“But with 6,800 double-deckers on London streets, their full electrification is the key to making maximum beneficial impact on air quality for Londoners. We are delighted, in the face of intensifying competition, to win the largest first order for electric double-deck buses in London and to retain our position at the top of the electric bus sales league.”

Colin Robertson is ADL chief executive. “So far the Enviro200EV single-decks have delivered in excess of 1.5 million miles of zero-emission transport in the UK,” he says. “This new contract for double-decks takes the BYD/ADL collaboration to a whole new level in every sense.

“We look forward to continuing our journey of improving air quality, while responding to the operational demands of our customers and the requirements of their passengers with this brand new vehicle.”

BYD T8SA road sweeper
A BYD T8SA road sweeper cleaning up streets in China
Tim Blakemore
Tim Blakemore
Tim Blakemore is an award-winning automotive journalist and the former editor of our sister title, Commercial Vehicle Engineer magazine. He is also the UK representative on the panel of judges for the biennial, pan-European Trailer Innovation Award scheme.