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BYD target US launch for electric cars in 2011

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January 14, 2009

BYD's F3DM

BYD's F3DM

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January 14, 2009 One of the carmakers showing off its electric power at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit is from China. The Shenzhen-based company BYD — which stands for Build Your Dreams — has built the world's first mass-produced, plug-in hybrid car, beating both Chevrolet and Toyota to the punch.

We covered the midsize F3DM when it was launched as the world’s first production plug in hybrid. It looks like a Toyota Corolla clone with more combined power from the petrol/electric motor at 168 hp (125 Kw) than the new Prius , which produces 134 hp (98.5 Kw).

The F3DM features BYD's self-developed iron-phosphate-based lithium-ion batteries while the powertrain combines a 50 Kw (67 hp) 1.0-liter gasoline engine, a 25 Kw generator and a 50 Kw traction motor. Combined range is 360 miles (580 km) with a 100 km (62 mile) all-electric range. BYD says that the F3DM consumes ≤16 kWh/100km, or 258 Wh/mile. (To provide a comparison point, the Chevrolet Volt is designed to consume 8 Kw/hr in 40 miles, or 200 Wh/mile.)

Acceleration from 0-60 mph is 10.5 seconds, with a top speed of 93 mph (150 km/h). The battery pack can be fully recharged from a household outlet in 7 hours. BYD says it can be quick charged to 50% capacity in 10 minutes. Unlike the Toyota Prius, you can charge the F3's battery from an ordinary wall socket. BYD claims that charging the F3's battery costs 75 percent less than filling up a gasoline-powered car.

e6 four wheel drive EV

BYD also brought it’s all electric E6 to Detroit, which has bears a striking resemblance to the Honda Odyssey. The E6 seats 5 and has all wheel drive thanks to separate electric motors for the front and rear axles. The front motor has 160Kw (217 hp) / 450Nm (332 ft/lb) and the rear motor 40Kw (54 hp) / 100Nm (74 ft/lb) each with a single speed gearing of 6.8:1. The two electric motors give a combined power output of 200Kw (272 hp) / 550Nm (405 ft/lb) and a top speed of 185km/h (115 mph).

Unfortunately, because the E6 is a full sized people carrier and carries a large 48kw/hr battery pack giving a range of 400 km (249 mile), the curb weight comes in on the heavy side at 2020 kg (4453 lb) which results in only a 9.2 second 0-100km (62 mile) time.

The third BYD model on show in Detroit is the F6DM, another plug in hybrid, that runs the same powertrain as the F3DM but is a larger car with a 1880 kg (4144 lb) curb weight compared to the 1560 kg (3439 lb) of the F3DM.

Enter Warren Buffett

Metallurgist Wang Chuanfu founded BYD in 1995 and quickly built it into one of the world's top producers of batteries for cell phones and laptop computers. Wang impressed investor Warren Buffett so much that in September 2008 one of Buffet's companies purchased a 10 percent stake in BYD for $230 million.

The recent news announced in Detroit that General Motors is getting back into the battery business could seen as a response to a new auto maker like BYD who have beaten the worlds number 1 and 2 (Toyota and GM) automakers to be the first to produce and start selling a plug in hybrid. The Chinese upstart potentially represents a serious threat to incumbent automakers as BYD are the world’s most successful li-ion battery producer who moved into the auto business in only 2003 by acquiring a majority stake in a Chinese auto manufacturer just as the move to EV gathers critical mass.

Coming To America

BYD is targeting 2011 to get the F3DM into the United States. Li says his company is working hard on building its cars to suit American drivers' tastes. "BYD's information technology division has been in business in the U.S. for 10 years. We understand Americans' concerns about safety and quality. So in designing this car for the U.S. market, we will certainly meet these requirements," he says. For now, BYD will focus on China's domestic market. Priced at about $22,000 each, the cars are a bit pricey for average consumers, so BYD will first aim at government and corporate buyers. Jia says it will take time for the new technology to win acceptance.

Paul Evans

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