China, Japan and South Korea are Advanced Battery and Electric Car Leaders

China’s BYD E6, a pure electric vehicle

GM announced on Jan. 12, 2009 that it would buy lithium ion cells from LG Chem of Seoul, South Korea. The cells will be manufactured in Korea and assembled into battery packs at a new facility that GM will build in Michigan. Robert Lutz, a GM vice chairman, said that his company preferred the Korean design.

A123 Systems of Watertown, Mass., the company that lost the Chevy Volt contract, had recently applied for a $1.84 billion loan from the Energy Department to open a large battery assembly plant in the Detroit area.

China BYD Automotive is displaying a range of gas-electric and plug-in electric models at the North American International Auto Show, such as its E6 DM (six-cylinder, dual-mode) sedan, which BYD representatives said will be able to drive 156 miles on a single battery charge.

China’s BYD and Brilliance car companies will enter the U.S. market in or about 2012, they will come as high-end, high-technology automobile manufacturers.

Global Electric Motorcars (GEM), a Chrysler-owned company, makes battery-powered neighborhood cars, those bubble-shaped conveyances often dismissed by serious car people as “golf carts.” GEM, based in Fargo, N.D., and in business 11 years, has 40,000 vehicles in operation in the United States. GEM cars sell for $7,000 to $14,000.

Chinese automaker BYD, – which is backed by MidAmerican Energy Holdings, a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. company – unveiled a model it claims can go 60 miles on electric power only. It is scheduled for release sometime this year in China.

BYD also has an electric-only auto in the works for 2011 that aims to go 250 miles on a fully charged battery. “The problems with BYD’s claims (600,000-mile overall life, 2000 charge cycles, 60-mile range for the F3DM model) is that their numbers don’t ‘add up’ – a GM engineer’s term, not mine,” said Moore after attending the auto show.

Moore thinks there could be something to BYD’s claims, though, perhaps through proprietary technology that allows the company’s engineers to squeeze more capacity and durability out of a relatively standard battery technology.

BYD says its power packs use an iron ferrous chemistry that allows them to double the voltage delivered but costs considerably less than competing technology.

n 2008, BYD Auto sold 170,000 vehicles, growing by 89% from 2007, and the company will seek bigger sales growth this year, said today. covered the 2090 auto show