Uber Reaches Deal With China’s BYD to Test Electric Cars

Mar 16, 2015 10:01 AM EDT | Matt Mercuro

Uber has reached a deal with Chinese automaker BYD to test a fleet of electric vehicles for its drivers.

The initiative, which started a few weeks ago in Chicago, could eventually expand to other big cities, according to the Silicon Valley startup.

This is Uber's first attempt to focus on an electric vehicle, company spokeswoman Lauren Altmin said to Reuters.

"We've seen interest in the program already from current and potential Chicago partners (drivers)," Altmin said in a statement.

The ride-hailing app originally started off as a luxury town-car service, but in a number of big cities UberX has been added, which is a service that features non-professional drivers using their personal vehicles.

The BYD offering has those drivers in mind with the new service.

The BYD e6 EVs are available for purchase through Green Wheels USA, or a Chicago dealership that focuses on hybrid and electric vehicles and also builds charging stations.

In Chicago, 25 BYD vehicles are being used by Uber drivers, though the company hopes to increase that number to a couple hundred by the end of 2015, according to Doug Snower, Green Wheels' president, who spoke with Reuters.

Green Wheels is offering a number of different options to drivers interested in an e6. The most popular option lets Uber drivers pay $200 a week to use an e6 for his or her shift.

Altimin said orders for the BYD, which is backed by Warren Buffett, and Green Wheels started late last year.

The automaker might have a hard time convincing consumers to purchase their cars over more established brands like Nissan and Tesla Motors, who are known for their electric vehicles. Uber hasn't said why they picked an unknown company for the service yet.

One advantage is that the e6 is larger than say the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model S.

BYD says its vehicle is capable of a 186 miles on a single charge, according to a company Facebook post.

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