This week, China's first mass-produced plug-in hybrid car went to market, produced by relative newcomer BYD. The car costs about $22,000, and can run up to 60 miles on a battery charged by a normal electrical outlet. Here are a few things you should know about the F3DM:
1. It may beat American plug-ins to the market. The F3DM may come overseas as soon as 2010. The United States is currently examining the F3DM to see if it is up to standards for the market. If it checks out OK, it would narrowly beat the Volt - and cost almost half as much.
[More on Electric Cars: Everything You Need to Know about the Chevy Volt]
2. BYD builds rechargeable batteries for other things, too. BYD is the world's largest manufacturer of rechargeable cell-phone batteries, boasting a 30 percent market share. It also makes batteries for laptops, tools, and other electronics. The difficulty in producing a cheap rechargeable battery was part of the reason the Volt has struggled. BYD claims that their ferrous battery technology that he says is superior to the nickel metal hydrate battery used in the Toyota Prius. The company told Bloomberg that the car's batteries can be fully recharged from a power point in as little as seven hours and 50 percent powered via a quick charge at a specialist station in 10 minutes.
3. BYD doesn't have a reputation to uphold. Primarily a battery company, BYD only ventured into autos in 2003, after the acquisition of a Chinese automaker, Tsinchuan Automobile Company Limited. Because of this, "They just have to make news, and they're doing that quite well. There's a lot of question as to how well this car is going to perform, how long the battery is going to last, and whether the vehicle is at all safe," said Hank Green of EcoGeek.
4. In China, it may be hard to charge. Chinese drivers keep their cars in group lots for apartment buildings, rather than single-family-home garages. Many of these lots do not have electrical outlets to charge cars overnight, according to Business Week. "Infrastructure is a problem," said Yale Zhang, director of greater China at automobile forecaster CSM Worldwide in Shanghai.Henry Li, general manager of BYD Auto, predicts sales of a few hundred in the next 12 months.
5. Warren Buffett stands to profit. In September, Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy, which is controlled by Berkshire Hathaway, paid $231 million for a 9.9 percent stake in BYD Auto's parent company BYD with a view to helping BYD distribute its cars in the U.S. by 2011.