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BYD Speeds Up U.S. Launch, Race for 2010 Electric Car Heats Up

byd-logoElectric vehicles may have proven their capacity for speed on the road, but when it comes to bringing plug-in models to market, extended and repeated delays have been the norm. But today word comes from Warren Buffett-backed BYD Auto that it’s actually accelerating its timeline for a U.S. launch. According to the Wall Street Journal, the China-based battery giant and automaker is now finalizing plans to begin selling its all-electric e6 model in the U.S. in 2010 — about a year ahead of schedule.


For the initial rollout, Chairman Wang Chuanfu tells the Journal that BYD plans to sell “a few hundred” e6 vehicles through a “small number of dealers” in an unnamed region. The vehicle, which BYD says can go up to 249 miles on a full battery charge, is set to carry a price tag of just over $40,000. That puts it in the ballpark of the electric sedan that Southern California-based startup Coda Automotive aims to build in China and sell in low volumes in California next year before a broader launch.

Both BYD and Coda face the challenge of winning over U.S. consumers wary of historically poor safety performance in Chinese vehicles. BYD, however, is in a different league, with its “formidable battery technology,” as Next Up Research put it recently, as well as its revenue from battery sales — earlier this week it struck a major supply deal with SAIC, the first Chinese automaker to sign up for BYD’s lithium-ion batteries. byd-e6-interior

Still, BYD is vaulting into an increasingly crowded race — and pressure has grown to break into the market early on. Just this week, Daimler (s DAI) announced that its electric Smart Fortwo (built with battery technology from Tesla Motors) will enter production in November of this year. And earlier this month, Nissan (s NSANY) unveiled the LEAF electric sedan set to deploy in the tens of thousands next year.

According to Southern California Editon’s Jim Kelly, who spoke at the recent Plug-in 2009 conference in Long Beach, Calif., about a dozen “electric-platform vehicles” (including all-electric, plug-in hybrid and extended-range electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt) will become available to consumers between 2010 and 2012 — many of them from brand names that are much more familiar to U.S. consumers than BYD. For BYD to pull ahead in that race, it will have to hit the ground in next year’s deployment with engines blazing.

6 Responses to “BYD Speeds Up U.S. Launch, Race for 2010 Electric Car Heats Up”

  1. The more the better, I don’t know about the USA but TATA (India) want to release a bigger version of the Nano here in Europe and have it as a EV. Considering that the Nano was sold for about $2000 in India for the basic ICE then I expect a Nano EV should come in at less than $20k here in Europe.

  2. Every EV/PHEV will be using Lithium-Ion batteries, which cost approximately the same $/kWh for automotive-grade batteries. Unless the BYD sedan is cost cut in other areas, they won’t be able to sell the vehicle for just above $40,000

    The closest competitor to the BYD sedan is the Coda sedan. They are both being produced in China and are the same class size, yet the coda only has a 100 mile range using the same Lithium-Ion chemistry. There is no free lunch when it comes to designing cars, and the only way the BYD sedan could be achieving the mileage figures it states, is under perfectly ideal conditions.

    Expect the BYD sedan to have closer to a 100 mile range and $45,000 price tag when it enters the market in 2010.

    BYD: 249 miles, $41,000 (estimated), China
    Tesla Roadster: 244 miles, $101,500, USA
    Coda Range: 100 miles, $45,000, China
    Leaf Range: 100 miles, $30,000 (estimated), researching
    Volt Range: 40 miles, $40,000 (estimated), USA

    • “Every EV/PHEV will be using Lithium-Ion batteries…” WRONG! Where did you get that info? Not from the Big Three, I hope; or else they are even more behind the curve than I thought. BYD uses proprietary Lithium-Ferrous batteries which according to the company, will be much cheaper to manufacture, have more charging cycles, chemically stable, much less toxic, and recyclable. I usually don’t trust tall claims from the Chinese, but I figure I could trust Warren Buffet’s research, seeing that he plunked down a billion bucks to invest in BYD. So David, do some research BEFORE you speak.
      Here is more for you to worry about: the BYD F3DM, a plug-in hybrid that has been in MASS PRODUCTION (unlike a certain GM car) since earlier this year, will also debut in North America by 2010.
      BYD F3DM: 68.4 miles (all electric) + gasoline engine for range extension, $16k, Made in China. By the way, for 4k more, you get leather seats, ABS, alloy wheels, etc.
      Chevy Volt: hopefully 40 miles (all electric) + gasoline engine for range extension, $40k (that’s $24k more than the BYD F3DM), Made in USA (a country where people who know the least are allowed to talk the most). By the way, Volt’s batteries will be provided by the South Koreans, because GM has spent zilch on new battery research.
      I think I will go for the BYD F3DM over the Volt and pocket the 24k to pay off my student loans.
      So let’s give credit where credit is due: the Chinese have the best hybrid electric car technology on the market today, which is no small achievement and certainly much more than what the Big Three have managed so far. If things go well for the Chinese, they might just beat the Big Three senseless (Deja vu, anyone?); but of course, the Japanese had their fill first, beating the Big Three half dead, only to pass them onto the Chinese to be finished off. Toast to the new American Century of automobiles, and let’s hope the Stink Three, ah, Big Three limp it to the quarter-century mark. I am not keeping my hopes up.