Chinese automaker BYD Co yesterday launched the first commercial dual-mode electric car in the world, giving it an edge in the green car race over other rivals like Toyota Motors and General Motors Corp.
The new car, known as the F3DM equipped with both pure and hybrid electric driving systems, is priced at 149,800 yuan.
Toyota and GM, the two other global competitors in the electric car market, had planned to launch similar models in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
The launch of F3DM comes at a time when China is encouraging domestic companies to develop environment-friendly cars to both curb oil imports and cut carbon emissions.
Privately-held BYD, based in Shenzhen, started out as a maker of rechargeable batteries and has grown into a major player in the hybrid car market.
Its aggressiveness in developing green cars caught global attention after MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co, a unit of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc, bought a 9.9 percent stake in BYD for HK$1.8 billion in late September amid the financial crisis in the United States.
Wang Chuanfu, president of the Hong Kong-listed BYD, said the firm's expertise in batteries, especially the invention of Fe Battery is essential to the commercialization of electric cars.
"We plan to launch a pure electric car at the end of 2009," he said.
Lian Yubo, vice-president and chief engineer of BYD, said the Fe battery, which is highly safe and cheap, could support a range of 100 km for each charge of electricity, compared with 25 km of the industrial competitors.
The new car's total range could reach 500 km per charge of gasoline and electricity, which could facilitate the users to travel short distance powered by electricity and long distance powered by gasoline, he added.
Besides special charging stations, which could charge the car to 50 percent in 10 minutes, F3DM could also be charged with electricity outlets. It takes about nine hours to charge the car to full level.
Lian said the production capacity for the new electric car could reach 10,000 a month and it would share the same production platform as that of gasoline-fuelled vehicles.
The Shenzhen Municipal Government and China Construction Bank signed letters of intent with BYD to purchase the new electric cars shortly after a launching ceremony in Shenzhen.
BYD had planned to sell the electric vehicles in the United States in 2010, but Wang yesterday told reporters that it will delay it until 2011, without giving reasons, according to a Reuters report.