China battery company launches plug-in hybrid car

Battery maker turned car company BYD Co. has launched China’s first homegrown hybrid vehicle for the retail market, seeking an edge over its crisis-stricken international rivals. The vehicle, known as the F3DM (DM stands for “Dual Mode”) can go as far as 62 miles using its electric engine, and when it runs low on power shifts to a back up gasoline engine.

Its battery can fully charge in nine hours from a regular electrical outlet, or much faster at BYD’s own charging stations, the company said in a statement. The car will sell for $22,000, about the same as many Chinese-made mid-sized cars, it said.

Although the car is just now hitting the market, BYD claims to have leapfrogged larger automakers to be the first company to commercialize plug-in hybrid technology, which allows the F3DM batteries to be recharged without any special infrastructure. Still, developing a safe plug-in has been a major challenge for automakers, and it was unclear what sort of standards the BYD vehicle had met. (The Associated Press)