Chinese Car Maker SAIC to Develop Electric Cars

The Chinese market is set to get more home-grown alternative energy vehicles, with SAIC Motor joining the list of companies that plan to work on hybrid and electric cars in the country. According to Reuters, the automaker will form a joint venture with its state-owned parent, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., which will invest 2 billion yuan ($293 million) to develop the low-emission vehicles.

Chinese electric car and battery maker BYD is also working on electric cars, and the company got a boost from overseas in September when investor Warren Buffett put up $230 million for a 10 percent stake. BYD is expected to start selling its electric vehicles in China next year and in Europe by 2010.

There’s no word on whether SAIC Motor plans to export its hybrid and electric vehicles, but it faces growing competition from more than just BYD for the domestic market alone. Earlier this month, Japan’s Nissan Motor said it had its own plans to pitch an electric car to Chinese consumers. The president of Nissan’s China division said the company will start selling electric cars in the country by 2012, according to Bloomberg.

But all of these upcoming electric cars will need some kind of charging infrastructure to keep them buzzing along, and while Nissan has made deals for charging networks in other countries, no plans have been released from Nissan, BYD or SAIC Motor for a network in China.

Nissan is working with electric car charging startup Better Place via the Renault-Nissan Alliance in Israel, Denmark and Australia, but has not yet made any deals with the startup for its work in China. Better Place also just made its first move in the U.S. market, announcing a deal to set up its system in California.

SAIC Motor isn’t completely new to the cleantech space. Reuters said SAIC Motor rolled out its first locally produced hybrid car in January as part of a venture with General Motors. SAIC Motor and GM teamed up in 1997 to produce Buicks and other GM-brand cars for the Chinese market. SAIC Motor is also aiming to introduce fuel-cell vehicles after 2010.

Shanghai Automotive will hold a 90 percent stake in the new hybrid and electric venture, called Shanghai Jieneng Automotive Technology, with publicly-traded SAIC Motor holding the remaining 10 percent.

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