Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Is BYD’s Electric Car Ready for Prime Time?

From the WSJ's ChinaRealtimeReport:

Chinese auto makers would love to break into the U.S. market, and BYD Co., the auto upstart part-owned by one of Warren Buffett’s companies, may be among those closest to that goal. However, its vehicle may need more than a little fine-tuning.

The tech chief of a global auto maker who recently drove BYD’s all-electric battery car, the e6, told The Wall Street Journal that he was “truly astonished that they plan to sell such a half-baked car” in China later this year and in the U.S. next year.

The ride was “rough,” which indicates a problem with the car’s computer control technology, and its handling was “squishy,” the executive said.

BYD has said it would start building beachheads in America by the end of next year by launching the e6. It plans to pick a specific region within the U.S. and initially market “a few hundred” e6s to government agencies, utilities and other corporate fleet customers, priced at slightly more than $40,000.

That’s a risky move because one of electric battery cars’ key enabling technologies — high-capacity, high-power lithium-ion battery — is still punishingly costly and considered still-maturing technologically. Toyota Motor Corp. had planned to use the technology in 2008 but delayed its use in products at least a couple of times. It recently decided to use lithium-ion batteries in a plug-in hybrid it is planning to launch later this year in Japan and the U.S. but is only tiptoeing into the technology as it plans to make only a limited number of the plug-ins available to fleet customers....MORE

HT: Environmental Capital