BYD and Tesla’s Mass Transit Dreams: Up to the Sky or Down to the Underground?

China’s and US’s New Energy Vehicles leaders BYD and Tesla have both aspired to disrupt the mass transit industry.Tesla’s CEO Ellon Musk envisions a series of underground roadways that ferry vehicles from and to destinations using electric tracks, whereas BYD’s CEO Chuanfu Wang turns his eyes onto the sky. His innovation is to construct an elevated monorail system called Skyrail in cities of China and all over the world.

While Tesla's "The Boring Company" concept is still in the exploration phase, BYD has already launched its first commercial Skyrail in China this September. With $767 million investment over the past 5 years, the Skyrail system will help refine the existing mass transit system and alleviate the intra-city traffic greatly.

The traffic congestion has long been a significant issue for China’s urban development. According to the latest Tom Tom Traffic Index, 10 of the 25 most congested cities in the world are in mainland China. Though most of these cities have subway or other public transportation systems to ease the traffic, cities like Beijing and Jinan are still facing severe traffic problems. In addition, the third-tier cities in China become more congested in the recent years.


(Source: DataYes RoboR Research Platform, Amap)

Therefore, the arrival of BYD’s Skyrail will help mitigate the stress from the traffic and enhance the mass transit system. It will offer more convenience and mobility to urban residents especially in medium and small-sized cities where subway is difficult to be constructed.

Compared to Subway, Skyrail is 80% cheaper and 33% quicker to complete construction. It has better topographic adaptability, reduced noise and a capacity of 10,000 to 30,000 passengers an hour (each way) with a speed up to 80 km/h.

Transportation Proportion.PNG

(Source: DataYes RoboR Research Platform, China Association of Metros, Zhongtai Securities)

Since last year, BYD has cooperated with more than 10 cities in China such as Yinchuan, Guilin, Shantou, Guang'an and Bengbu to build up the Skyrail system. This number is expected to grow to twenty or more next year. BYD has also expanded its global market and it would soon start trial operation of Skyrail in Philippines and Egypt.

According Ping An Securities, BYD will earn 5 to 6 billion yuan in monorail revenue this year and 30 billion yuan next year. The monorail is now among BYD's four key business sectors for the first time, along with cars, mobile phone components, and batteries.