By NORIHIKO SHIROUZU
BEIJING – BYD Co., a fledgling Chinese auto maker, is in talks to supply its battery technology to other car companies in Europe and the U.S., Chairman Wang Chuanfu said in an interview.
If finalized, a deal could solidify BYD's growing prominence in the electric car market, after it surprised the automotive world by launching a heavily electrified plug-in car in December, ahead of more established foreign rivals.
Mr. Wang, BYD's top executive and founder, and other BYD officials declined to identify the companies it is negotiating with. Mr. Wang, in the recent interview, said only that BYD is negotiating with one U.S. auto maker and two in Europe about supplying lithium-ion batteries it produces in Shenzhen, where BYD is based.
Mr. Wang said the batteries it is considering supplying are the same ones used in the F3DM sedan, its plug-in hybrid car that it started selling to corporate fleet customers in China in December. That car hit the market, albeit in limited release, about a year ahead of a similar car being planned for a launch late this year by Toyota Motor Corp.
A deal to supply its batteries to other car companies could put BYD – a battery producer that began selling cars only in 2005 – in competition with battery companies with similar technology such as A123 Systems, a closely held company based in Watertown, Mass.
An executive at A123 Systems couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Mr. Wang said BYD's advantage for foreign auto makers is its ability to produce lithium-ion battery cells at relatively low costs. Last year, a company controlled by investor Warren Buffett invested $230 million in BYD, chiefly because of BYD's cost-effective battery technology.
Concerns over gasoline shortages and global climate change have prompted a global race to commercialize affordable electric-battery cars and electrified plug-in hybrids. Those efforts have been limited largely by immature battery technology.
While lithium-ion batteries are seen as the technology that will ultimately work, its successful use has been hindered by its relatively high price, limited durability, and concerns about safety problems.
BYD says it has largely resolved those issues by turning to a safer, more cost effective technology called iron-phosphate-based lithium-ion.Related Links
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