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BYD Unveils China’s First Electric Hybrid

BYD, the battery maker turned electric car maker and in which U.S. investor Warren Buffett took a 10% sake earlier this year, has unveiled China’s first homegrown plug-in hybrid vehicle.

That is few weeks later than BYD chairman Wang Chuanfu had said in October but a year earlier than originally expected and more importantly ahead of the next-gen Toyota hybrid and two years ahead of GM’s Chevy Volt.

Plans for sales to foreign markets, including the U.S. remain set for 2011, which will let it ride on the marketing coat tails of foreign competitors and probably position itself as the cheaper alternative.

The vehicle, which has a small gasoline engine as a back up to its electric engine, is selling for 149,800 yuan ($21,890). That cheaper than Toyota’s top selling hybrid, the Prius, at 259,000 yuan, but twice the cost of BYD’s comparable gas-engine only car, the F3.

The company is focusing first on domestic taxi and fleet sales rather than individuals, with a target of 10,000 sales in 2009. The first announced sales of the F3DM are a total of 50 cars to the Shenzhen municipal government and China Construction Bank.

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