China’s BYD first to market with mass-produced plug-in hybrid

The BYD F3 was used as the platform for the new plug-in hybrid technology

The BYD F3 was used as the platform for the new plug-in hybrid technology

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Chinese manufacturer BYD is planning to have plug-in hybrid vehicles on sale in the U.S. within two years, with similar ambitions for the European market. The company took a step closer to reaching those goals by launching the world’s first mass-produced plug-in hybrid vehicle in China this week.

The car is the F3DM and it can drive up to 62 miles on electrical power alone before a small internal combustion engine takes over driving duties. Its battery can fully charge in nine hours from a regular electrical outlet, or much faster at BYD's own charging stations, reports The Detroit News.

On sale in China priced at 150,000 yuan ($22,000), BYD plans to sell the locally-built plug-in hybrid in the U.S. market by 2010. The move is backed by a $230 million investment from the world's richest man, Warren Buffett, and should help it overcome any development hitches presented by tough U.S. safety laws. The investment came from a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, of which Buffett is the majority shareholder.

According to BYD's exports general manager, the company is "talking to some third-party consulting and engineering companies to get a thorough understanding of the safety standards" in the U.S., which will be integral in the vehicle's success into breaking into the U.S. market.

BYD is predicting that initial sales of the car will top 500 units per month in China and will eventually reach 2,000 sales per month by next year.
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