The project is already running in Chicago with about 25 cars shuttling around passengers, and the numbers should expand through the year, according to Reuters. If successful, the strategy might expand to other cities, as well. "GreenWheels and BYD have both been investing in and building out EV infrastructure in Chicago, and the partnership was a natural fit for this pilot," Uber spokesperson Lauren Altmin said to Autoblog via email.
This test is part of the ridesharing company's drive to help drivers buy or lease vehicles, according to Reuters. The BYD vehicles are sold through Chicago's Green Wheels USA, and Uber drivers taking part in the program have the choice of a standard lease, a lease-to-own program or paying $200 a week to just use an E6 for their shifts. Under the final arrangement, the hatchbacks are returned to the dealer at the end of the workday for charging.
"The first info session was attended by dozens of current and potential Chicago driver partners. We are interested in the potential of expanding the program, but remain focused on the pilot in Chicago," said Altmin.
The E6 is a five-door hatchback that uses an electric motor making 101 horsepower and offers a top speed of 87 miles per hour. BYD claims a range of 186 miles when operating in urban areas as a taxi. Although, the model carries an EPA certified range of 127 miles for the 2014 model year (the most recent figures available).
BYD began building electric buses in California last year, but the launch of the E6 in the US has been rocky with multiple delays. The company at one time wanted to start sales in 2012 and later said it would be 2013. The E6 was eventually limited purely to fleet sales here.