Are Purpose-Built Vehicles the Future of Ride-Hailing? China’s Uber Releases Electric Taxi

The ride-hailing giant has collaborated with Warren Buffet-backed BYD

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Nov 18, 2020

Didi Chuxing, the ride-hailing giant often called the “Uber of China”, has teamed up with electric vehicle-maker BYD to produce an electric taxi.

The collaboration was announced in 2018, but it wasn’t until this past Monday’s “Didi Reveal Day” — you’d be forgiven for forgetting — that further details were announced, like the car’s electric battery.


The “D1 van” will hit the streets this year in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province and base of BYD’s manufacturing operation, and roll out into cities across China in 2021, the company said.

Didi founder and CEO Cheng Wei believes that adoption of ride-sharing apps will rise dramatically in the next decade, and purpose-built vehicles like the D1 are the next step forward.


The D1 van was designed with its purpose in mind — sliding doors aim to reduce traffic accidents involving disembarking passengers, while ergonomic seats support drivers on long shifts. There’s even a police alarm button, after Didi faced backlash over violent crimes committed by its drivers.

The new vehicle was launched with a lot of fanfare and — somewhat bizarrely for followers of Chinese indie rock — and endorsement from art-rock band Rebuilding the Rights of Statues (Re-TROS), winners of this season’s highly commercialized TV talent show The Big Band.

re-tros didi d1 byd

Rock band Re-TROS endorsing the new D1

Didi’s Cheng hopes to have one million cars with automatic-driving capabilities on the road by 2025, and have ride-sharing account for 30% of mobility needs by 2030. The D1 is one milestone on that road.

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