For BYD, Electric Vehicles Are Just the Start

Chinese company BYD will bring its electric and plug-in vehicles to North America in 2011 as one part of a threefold strategy for exporting technology. BYD’s first plug-in car, the F3DM, has arrived in California where it will be used in a pilot project by the Los Angeles Housing Authority. The F3DM has 40-60 miles of electric range and 300 miles of gasoline range, and in a unique feature, drivers can specify whether the gas engine assists the electric motor.

The company, in which billionaire Warren Buffett is a prominent investor, has had delays in bringing its EVs to the U.S. , with the all-electric E6 now not arriving until 2011. Not stopping at light duty vehicles, BYD is also bringing the K9 electric bus, which can travel up to 300 kilometers on a charge, to the U.S. in 2011. BYD has seen very slow sales of its EVs in China, and has had to scale back its ambitious plans for sales and new vehicle launches.

But for BYD, EVs are only part of the plan. The company has been a significant player in batteries and wants to simultaneously roll out energy storage and renewable power. The company is planning to offer the same lithium-ion batteries that power its vehicles to store solar power. The energy storage market is in its infancy, and will grow rapidly throughout the decade. Pike Research projects that lithium ion battery sales for grid applications will be $64 million in 2011 in North America, and grow to $3.1 billion by 2015.

BYD has several 10 megawatt Energy Storage Stations that store solar energy up and running in China, and sees the U.S. as fertile ground. The synergistic scenario is: more solar power equals a greater need for energy storage, as well as more clean energy available to power vehicles. Since solar power is intermittent and limited to only part of the day, storage is necessary to maximize its utility. Many consumers interested in EVs are excited by the prospect of charging their vehicles with renewable power. BYD is not alone in seeing the connection between solar, storage and EVs. Panasonic, Itochu, Sanyo and other companies are all developing integrated technology platforms that unite all three.

Lithium ion Battery Revenue, North America: 2011-2015

Article by John Gartner, senior analyst at Pike Research and co-founder of Matter Network, appearing courtesy the Matter Network.

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