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China rolls out plug-in hybrid car

Battery-maker turned car company BYD has launched China’s first hybrid electric vehicle for the retail market.

BYD presented the vehicle, known as the F3DM, in a ceremony in the southern city of Shenzhen, where local officials have pledged to buy some of the cars in support of the project.

The vehicle can run up to 100km on its electric engine, and when it runs low on power, it shifts to a back-up engine.

The battery can fully charge in nine hours from a regular electrical outlet, or much faster at BYD’s own charging stations, the company said.

The car will sell for $22 000, about the same as many Chinese-made mid-sized cars.

BYD, a private company based in Shenzhen, started out as a maker of rechargeable batteries.

Its foray into electric-car manufacturing drew broader attention recently when MidAmerican Energy Holdings, a unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, invested in a 9,9% stake in the company.

Encouraged by government support for alternative fuel technologies, BYD has pressed ahead with developing electric vehicles, despite weakening sales in China and elsewhere.

The company has said it plans to export the cars to the United States, but its vehicles must first meet stringent US safety standards — a requirement that so far has deterred other, better-known local automakers. — Sapa-AP

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