At an exclusive press event held in Shenzhen last week, Chinese fork lift truck manufacturer BYD confirmed its intentions to market its range of Iron-Phosphate powered electric trucks in the UK by the end of this year.
The innovative, vertically integrated manufacturer - part of the €9bn turnover BYD Auto Group, 10% of which is owned by legendary US investor Warren Buffet - already has forklift sales operations in Germany and Benelux, serviced by a European HQ in Rotterdam. At Logimat this year, it spelled out its intentions to broaden its offering to more European countries, choosing France and the UK as its next territories.
A worldwide player in the manufacture of Iron Phosphate batteries, BYD has grown to become one of China's leading electric vehicle manufacturers. Its best-selling electric buses and taxis are already in action across Europe - for example, London has two e-buses on trial and the capital also boasts a fleet of 50 electric taxis - and its ambition to penetrate the European forklift market was revealed last week as it demonstrated its manufacturing capabilities to the cream of Europe's logistics editors.
Visits to its automotive manufacturing plants, where its 75kW E6 model and its Denza electric car (the latter in a JV with Daimler-Benz) are produced, were followed by a visit to its R&D facilities and its new 1m sq m flt manufacturing plant at Shaoguan, where series production of its European-spec machines was just getting underway. The facility will have an ultimate capacity of 50,000 trucks per annum. The trip was rounded off by a look at its hi-tech automated battery production facility in Huizhou, where the real magic behind the BYD forklift offering lies.
The Iron Phosphate battery technology allows opportunistic, rapid and efficient charging using a BYD charger supplied with every machine. BYD guarantees its batteries for eight years or 10,000 hours, and therefore does away with the need to supply a second battery during the forklift's first full contract.
Using a calculation that survived the scrutiny of Europe's leading trade journalists, BYD produced a convincing argument that demonstrated an operational saving of €1,600 - €2,000 per annum per forklift per shift, versus a 'conventional' lead acid battery-powered forklift, a fact that will certainly catch the attention of the cost-aware UK forklift buyers.
Javier Contijoch, Forklift Director Europe for BYD, told SHD Logistics that he is currently on the lookout for UK dealers, and will be hoping to achieve national coverage by the time the brand launches in the UK in Q4/2015. "We will be in the UK looking for dealers who share the same ambition as we do," said Contijoch. "We are serious about the UK market, and are rolling out across European territories starting out with the largest markets, at a rate that enables us to ensure full service to our customers."
To that end, BYD is establishing a parts distribution centre in The Netherlands and plans to keep its most popular models in stock in Europe, offering immediate delivery. With three main models on offer - 2.5t and 3.5t four-wheel counterbalanced trucks, and a compact 1.6t three-wheeler that's likely to be its best-seller in the UK - BYD currently offers 57 variants of truck. It is currently testing a a powered pallet truck, a ride-on pallet truck and a tugger before announcing their addition to the existing range. It has also said it is developing an Iron Phosphate-powered 8t 'big' truck.
To read more about BYD, its technologies, its history, its ambition for the European market, and our impressions of its fork lift trucks, look out for the June edition of SHD Logistics magazine, available digitally on 22nd May and as a printed magazine on 1st June.