Chinese Automaker BYD Planning 2011 U.S. Debut

One of the themes to emerge from the 2009 Detroit auto show has been environmentally responsible vehicles, and Chinese automaker BYD Auto builds on that trend with three models — two plug-in hybrids and an electric vehicle — it's displaying at the show. BYD says it will launch models with these technologies in Europe in 2010, and that it plans to enter the U.S. market in 2011, which is on the early side of the timetable it discussed at the Detroit auto show last year.

The two plug-in hybrid sedans — the compact F3DM and midsize F6DM — use BYD's Dual Mode plug-in hybrid technology. They have an electric mode that allows the cars to travel on battery power alone for 62 miles before the gas engine needs to start to extend their range. It takes about seven hours to recharge the cars using a standard household outlet, but with a special charging station the battery can be charged halfway in about 10 minutes, and it can be charged completely in an hour.

The e6 is an all-electric hatchback that has a range of about 250 miles on a single charge, according to BYD. Like the plug-in hybrids, its battery can be charged overnight using a regular 120-volt household outlet or replenished halfway in as little as 10 minutes using a charging station (60 minutes for a full charge).

Even though BYD says it'll have cars in the U.S. in a few years, we'll believe it when we see them. That said, the fact that BYD has the backing of Warren Buffet's MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. and has begun selling the F3DM in China is encouraging.

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