China's electric car ahead of the curve

Visitors view a BYD F3DM electric vehicle in Shenzhen of Guangdong Province, China.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Scott Jagow: The real car story of the morning comes from China. A Chinese company unveiled a new electric car. And our man Scott Tong was at the unveiling. Scott, tell me about the car.

Scott Tong: Well, the car doesn't look spectacular around the outside, I have to tell you. They unveiled it and it looks like a Corolla. But the magic is on the inside. This car has a plug-in battery that is said to be two years ahead of the competition, because it's on the mass market here. And it's superior to what the Japanese and to what GM are developing now. It goes longer, farther per charge, and it charges up faster than the competition's.

Jagow: OK, so where can I get one?

Tong: You can come join me in China, that would be the quickest way. Or you can move to Scandinavia, which is where they're going to export some of them next year. Or if you hang around, this Chinese company called BYD wants to export them within a couple years to these larger markets, like North America or Europe.

Jagow: Scott, what evidence do we have that this really will be a mass-market seller?

Tong: We have $230 million of evidence in the form of investment from Warren Buffett. So that's good enough for most of us. Earlier this year, he decided to invest this much money, and what it seems like is he believes this company is on the cutting edge of this battery technology. And what's interesting about this Chinese company BYD is it started out as a battery company, making mobile phone rechargeable batteries or making laptop rechargeable batteries. And some executives have actually come out and said, you know, making a mobile phone is really hard, making a car is easier.

Jagow: Marketplace's Scott Tong, reporting from Hong Kong. Thanks.

Tong: OK Scott, thanks a lot.

Jagow: And by the way, the car goes for about $21,000.

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