January 13, 2009 · One of the carmakers showing off its electric power at the North American International AutoShow in Detroit is from China. The Shenzhen-based company BYD — which stands for Build Your Dreams — has built the world's first mass-produced, plug-in hybrid car, beating both Chevrolet and Toyota to the punch.The mid size sedan is called the F3DM. The car has a gasoline engine that kicks in when a driver accelerates to more than 37mph; up to that point, it runs completely on electricity.
TheF3DM produces 160 to 180 horsepower and can travel up to 60 miles just on its lithium ion battery, after which it relies on the small gas engine. BYD claims that charging the F3's battery costs 75 percent lessthan filling up a gasoline-powered car.
Unlike the Toyota Prius, you can charge the F3's battery from an ordinary wall socket.The problem is that it takes nine hours. Henry Li, who is in charge of BYD's automotive exports, says BYD is working with electricity companies to set up charging stations where motorists could charge a battery half-full in 10 minutes.
"It's a chicken-and-egg situation," he says. "Do you set up the charging stations first, or do you make the cars first? That's why we decided to make a plug-in hybrid car that is not reliant on charging stations, and when the battery runs out, you still have the gas engine."