Billionaire Warren Buffet is paving the way for a Chinese-made electric car to hit the American market by 2010. Buffet is an investor in Chinese automaker BYD Auto as well as MidAmerican Energy, a utility company based out of Des Moines, Iowa. His $230 million investment in BYD Auto speaks volumes of both Buffet’s trust in this company and the automaker’s advancement in electric drive systems. BYD Auto President Wang Chuanfu announced last week that BYD Auto would begin to market its e6 electric sedan in the United States by the end of 2010.
The e6 is a five-seat sedan available in four levels of engine power ranging from an energy saving 101 horsepower version to a more powerful 269 horsepower model. BYD Auto is touting the eight second 0-60 MPH time as well as the 100 MPH maximum speed to attract consumers looking for more powerful consumers. The automaker is also claiming that the e6 could recharge 50% of its capacity within 10 minutes using a quick charge outlet. The projected 249-mile range of the e6 would appeal to American commuters committed to living in the suburbs and exurbs while working in the city.
Wang noted in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that the e6 would be sold in limited numbers to fleet customers in 2010. The next step for BYD Auto is a European rollout in 2011 with a larger rollout to individual buyers in both markets thereafter. The e6 is projected to retail at about $40,000 though multiple price points are likely based on the aforementioned variety of engine types.
Buffet, Wang and MidAmericanEnergy are likely to pull out all of the stops to make the e6 release in America a success. MidAmerican Energy has pledged to work with BYD Auto as it infiltrates the American market with the potential for charging stations, batteries and solar panels to be installed nationwide. BYD Auto is hoping that Buffet’s investment and a mass public offering in China over the next year will push the e6 ahead of impending releases by other automakers. The issue for BYD Auto should not be beating the competition to the American market but creating a successful electric vehicle. If the e6 fails to impress consumers in the United States, BYD Auto may lose out on the American market while more patient automakers bide their time.