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One thing both sides of the Big Three bridge loan controversy seem to agree on is that American automakers have been super-slow to develop energy-saving new technologies and get them to market.

One example of a quicker way comes from China, where a 13-year-old battery-maker will begin marketing a plug-in hybrid car tomorrow, according to the BBC.

The BYD (Build Your Dreams, according to its website) F3DM has a fully charged battery range of 80 miles, twice that of the much-hyped Chevy Volt, which will not be available for sale until late 2010.

A fascinating story, below.  

Peter Day of the BBC, who admits at the start that "cars leave me cold,"  took a spin in the F3DM and was impressed by its "exceptional acceleration" and "almost silent" operation.

He's even more impressed by the company's story:

BYD evolved, starting with rechargeable batteries that soon became standard parts for one third of all the world's mobile phones, following the research speciality of the founder and chairman Wang Chuanfu.

And the modest battery-making company grew and grew.

Wang Chuanfu soon saw that battery-powered cars might be the future.

BYD knew a lot about batteries, and it was not daunted by the complexities of car-making either.

Six years ago, it bought two established Chinese car firms, and now BYD has seven huge plants with 130,000 employees.

snip

Car making is less difficult than high technology, they argue, and many of the techniques they have learned in high tech can now be applied to the automobile.

Despite its relative youth as a company, BYD already has a museum about itself, and has plans to be the No. 1 car-maker in China in 2015, and No. 1 in the world by 2025.  

BYD's future prospects have attracted the attention of Warren Buffett, who invested $230 million for a 10 percent stake in BYD in September.

It's a given that American manufacturers competing with Chinese manufacturers are at several disadvantages -- labor costs, environmental regulations, health care/insurance costs, tax policies, currency manipulation, etc.

The BYD story highlights, in an essential industry, another disadvantage -- the nimbleness of a new Chinese auto-maker, compared to the unstated, decades-long refusal of Big Three executives to support real energy-saving innovations that will make it into dealer showrooms.  

Originally posted to devtob on Sun Dec 14, 2008 at 07:50 AM PST.

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