Chinese Electric Car Start-Up Embarrasses American Automakers

This week is the Detroit Auto show, and the focus of many car makers is on electrics and hybrids. One particular company caught the eye of the Wall Street Journal, Chinese car maker BYD Co. BYD developed an electric automobile that only costs consumers $22,000.

The car, called the F3DM, plugs into a home outlet and comes with a small gasoline engine that can recharge the battery on the go. It is the first of an array of electrified cars BYD plans to introduce around the world, starting in China and then in the U.S. and Europe as early as 2010.

…[BYD’s] strategy: capitalising on the electric car’s low barriers to entry. Few products are as complex to develop and produce as gasoline-powered automobiles, which are assembled with thousands of precisely engineered parts. But electric cars use only basic motors and gearboxes, and have relatively few parts. Aside from perfecting the battery itself, they’re far easier and cheaper to build — and that makes for a level playing field.

The company’s CEO goes on to say that all car manufacturers are at the same starting line as far as electric cars are concerned. If this is true, the Big Three automakers ought to hang their heads (even further) in shame. The large automakers had a significant head start, but they’ve squandered that opportunity and now they’re going to have to swat at gnats like BYD.

And it’s not just the automakers BYD wants to disrupt–it’s also your local mechanic. It’s going to be a lot harder to invent car troubles when there’s just a hundred parts in the engine:

Indeed, BYD’s all-electric e6, has just two motors (45 parts each), one powering the front axle and the other the rear, and two gearboxes (60 parts each) to go with each of the motors. That means the whole system has 210 primary parts, excluding nuts and bolts. In comparison, BYD’s F6, a gasoline-fuelled vehicle, has a total of 1,400 powertrain parts: a V6 engine composed of 840 parts and a transmission with 560 parts.

All that sounds wonderful. It remains to be seen how reliable the car will be, or how much trust the public is willing to invest in a tiny Chinese auto maker. But how refreshing to hear a car company say that building electric car companies is simple and offer them at a reasonable price–instead of bellyaching to Congress about how it needs tens of billions of dollars to get bailed out of its own crappy strategy.

More on the FD 3M here.  More on e6 and BYD here. 

See Also: Investors Apparently Bananas About New GM Cars
Why GM Is Still Screwed

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