If all goes to plan, sometime in the coming weeks the roads of London will have a new type of taxi: the Chinese built BYD E6.

On one hand, these 50 electric MPVs represent a small, novel approach to doing things differently in a city (and country) still grappling with the emergence of the electric car.

On the other, they represent an opportunity for BYD and other Chinese car makers to leapfrog the mainstream opposition and establish a foothold beyond their home market in Europe.

So while I suspect these cars will be treated as an amusing novelty in London, its fair to say they represent the first step in a potential automotive revolution. Albeit with an emphasis on the word potential: as Hilton Holloway has already blogged, Chinese car makers have a long way to go as it is, let alone ones with a focus on electric cars.

BYD stands for Build Your Dreams, and if that sounds rather overblown, consider this: the company was founded in 1995, but already employs 170,000 people worldwide, and is China's biggest electric vehicle maker by sales. It is also famous for persuading billionaire US investor Warren Buffett to take a stake in it.

Even so, BYD is struggling. Since a peak in 2009, it's profits have fallen by three-quarters, at about £10 million last year. The recovery plan revolves around those electric taxis, and in future the company has said it will likely make only electric vehicles.

Now, to us, that sounds like madness. Betting the farm on electric cars is akin to being a sun cream salesman in April in UK terms. But on the eve of the Shanghai motor show BYD is making a case for itself, and its arguments are potentially compelling.

Execs reckon that China's shortage of oil reserved means the government will do all it can to make electric cars work; already it has pushed many of its highest officials in to running E6s over Audi A6s or the like. Extricating cars also offer a partial solution to the terrible pollution that besets major cities in China.

But, above all else, electric car leadership offers China's struggling car makers a chance to leapfrog the established Western and Eastern brands. If they get the technology right where others are struggling and make the breakthrough, suddenly they won't be fighting for overseas sales on price, quality or the like.

A very long shot, perhaps, but it explains why those London cabs are more than just a novelty.