May 6, 2009

The BYD Mystery

Have you heard about BYD? If not, you will hear about it a lot more in the coming months because they are the Chinese contenders in the race for the first fully electric car. Many companies want that title and the level public awareness that will be attached to it.

As described in their corporate website, BYD Company Limited (HKG: 1211) was established in 1995, and it is a Hong Kong listed high-tech private enterprise mainly dealing with two businesses: IT manufacturing and auto manufacturing. BYD has nine production bases, including sites in Guangdong, Beijing, Shanxi, Shanghai, etc. with a total area of nearly 7 million square meters. BYD has also set up branches and offices in America, Europe, Japan, South Korea, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong and other regions. BYD’s total number of employees now exceeds 130,000.

The reason I’m talking about that company is that a Berkshire’s subsidiary, The MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, has invested 230 million USD in September 2008 to acquire a 10% stake in the Chinese battery maker. Being in business for less than 20 years, BYD has developed enough expertise to be a major distributor in battery technology. It isn’t the traditional way to enter the car construction business but it seems to work for the company: they have become one of the mainstream automobile manufacturers in China with hundreds of thousands of units sold for their different models.

They might be the first manufacturer to have a vehicle that can be commercialized with their E6 model. With a 214 hp permanent-magnet type synchronous motor that gives the car an estimated autonomy of 249 miles (400 km) on a single charge, they have developed a car functional enough to be used every day. The only thing left to see if they are going to be able to make it available before competitors like Fisker or Tesla. I wonder if the Buffett endorsement will be good enough to ensure investors that followed him are not deceived.There is more information about the development of pure electric vehicles on each of these company websites.

BYD Motors Website
Fisker Automotive Website
Tesla Motors website

Full Disclosure: The author does not have a position in 1211 (BYD).

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