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China's BYD, LA Test Electric Car Fleet

Thu, 12/16/2010 - 4:18am

SHANGHAI (AP) -- China's BYD Auto and the Housing Authority of Los Angeles have launched a trial program for a fleet of BYD electric cars, as the battery-maker turned car company moves a step closer toward its goal of vehicle sales in North America.

Company spokesman Paul Lin said Thursday that BYD, which is backed by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, is aiming at U.S. sales of its K9 electric bus next year and hoping to begin sales of its E6 electric car in the U.S. by 2012 -- two years later than originally planned.

Earlier this week, the L.A. Housing Authority and BYD began a testing program for the Chinese automaker's plug-in hybrid F3DM sedans that housing authority president Rudolf C. Montiel said would significantly reduce fuel costs and polluting emissions.

BYD, which is considering locating its North American headquarters in Los Angeles, is also in talks with the housing authority on use of an energy storage station to generate solar power that could be used for charging the vehicles.

BYD earlier signed a deal with the city to develop a battery for storing renewable energy at a wind farm in the Tehachapi Mountains northwest of the city.

Lin denied reports that BYD's export plans had been delayed by troubles over ownership of the technology for its batteries and said the company was struggling to keep up with demand.

"Since our power battery is widely used in many products, from EV manufacturers to various energy-storage projects, we are having problems with capacity," Lin said. Despite having built several new factories, "the output is still less than enough," he said.

BYD originally said it planned to begin U.S. sales of its E6 electric vehicle in 2010. An updated version of the car will be displayed at the North American Auto Show next month, and BYD is hoping to begin retail sales in 2012, Lin said.

He said that BYD hopes to reach agreement with the State of California by the middle of next year on supplying all-electric K9 buses for use in energy-saving public transportation projects.

The expectation is that BYD might set up factories in Los Angeles to produce the buses.

Associated Press researcher Ji Chen contributed to this report.

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