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Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- BYD Co., the Chinese automaker backed by Warren Buffett, started selling the world’s first mass-produced plug-in hybrid, gaining an edge on Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Corp. in electric-powered vehicles.

The F3 DM can run for 100 kilometers (62 miles) using only batteries, Shenzhen-based BYD said in a statement today. Toyota plans to begin testing plug-ins, which can be recharged from household powerpoints, late next year, it said in August. GM aims to start selling the Volt plug-in in late 2010.


The company, also China’s biggest maker of rechargeable batteries, rose 16 percent to HK$13.32 at the close in Hong Kong. It has fallen 1.9 percent this year compared with a 46 percent plunge for the benchmark Hang Seng Index.


The car costs from 149,800 yuan ($22,000), said Xia Zhibing, BYD’s sales head. That compares with Toyota’s Prius, which costs from 259,800 yuan. The high price of hybrids and the lack of charging stations have damped demand in China. The Prius, the bestselling hybrid in China, racked up 748 sales nationwide in the first ten months of the year.

It would seem that BYD's position as a battery producer gives it a fundamental cost advantage in the most vital component for PHEVs (and eventually EVs) -- the battery.

And while the Big 3 struggle to keep from going under, Buffett's 10% stake in this company does represent an American equity interest in leading PHEV technology, and without the encumbrance of bloated union contracts.
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