Portland Attempts to Woo Chinese Plug-in and Electric Car Maker BYD

Political and business heavyweights are rolling out the green carpet in hopes of convincing a Chinese electric car manufacturer to set up shop in the Portland area.


BYD (Build Your Dreams) is China’s largest battery maker, and moving into the automotive industry.  BYD’s first plug-in hybrid planned for the Chinese market will be the F6DM mid-sized sedan in the second half of 2008, and use lithium iron phosphate batteries.  Its top speed is expected to be be 100 mph, with a range of 62 miles in all-electric mode and 267 miles total after the gas engine kicks in.  A fully electric version called the F6E is planned for 2009.  The F6E will be a 5 seater sedan with a top speed of 100 mph, range of 186 miles per charge, and expected battery lifetime of 2,000 cycles, or 373,000 miles.

The company is following this up with the impressive F3DM, which will be smaller, less expensive (selling for around $14,000 in China), and the company claims will have up to a 100 mile range in electric-only mode.  The F6DM styling is being compared to a Toyota Camry, while the F3DM (pictured above) is similar to a Corolla.

Currently BYD plans to sell the cars exclusively in China, expanding sales to Europe in 2-3 years.  However, Portland is trying to entice the company to bring the cars to the United States.

Representatives from BYD Auto met with Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, Portland Mayor Tom Potter, Mayor-elect Sam Adams, and a host of other local dignitaries who are trying to persuade the Chinese carmaker to make Portland its distribution hub, its North American headquarters, or even its U.S. manufacturing base.

“It’s still more a dream than a goal,” says Rick Snyder, CEO of EcoMotion, an electric-car dealer on Northeast Sandy Boulevard. “At first blush, it seems like we’re a long way from Detroit. But we do have some manufacturing expertise – we should really jump on this opportunity.”

BYD representatives sound cautiously optimistic.  While remaining noncommittal, Henry Li, general manager of BYD’s automobile sales division, told Sustainable Life that he was impressed by Portland’s green reputation.

“The top factor is a place that is environmentally friendly, where people have a green mind-set,” Li said. “That’s very important.”

BYD envisions eventually selling the F3DM and F6DM in the North American market.  The cars would likely will sell in the US for $25,000 to $30,000.

The company’s immediate need is to find a location to test-drive its cars for the North American market. Beyond that, it soon will want to identify a point of entry where it can import cars made in China.

According to Jin Lan, a China business consultant based in Vancouver, Wash., BYD probably will want to eventually establish a manufacturing plant in North America, just as Japanese companies have done.

Li cautioned that the company’s plans were still in the early stages, but said he expects BYD to settle on a North American test market by the end of the year.

Source: Portland Tribune

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Dana Nuccitelli

Dana earned a Bachelor's degree in astrophysics from UC Berkeley in 2003 and a Master's degree in physics from UC Davis in 2005. Through college, he grew increasingly interested in environmental issues, particularly global warming and alternative fuel vehicles. After earning his Master's degree, Dana became employed at an environmental consulting firm in the Sacramento, California area. He currently works as an Environmental Scientist, primarily perfoming research and contributing to the cleanup of contaminated former military defense sites.