At last year’s North American International Auto Show, Chinese carmaker BYD introduced itself to the US with plans of selling cars there by 2011. Now they’re back at this year’s show, and have unveiled their new pure-electric car, the e6. Unlike some other electric vehicle manufacturers, BYD has actually been selling cars to real, live consumers for the past two years. In 2009, BYD sold 450,000 units in China, and expects to sell around 800,000 this year. The big news, however, is that they plan to start selling the e6 in North America in 2010 - a full year ahead of schedule.

With its roots in battery development, BYD has designed a new low-cost, high-energy battery for the e6. Called the Fe (As in ferrous) battery, it reportedly gives the e6 a range of 205 miles per charge, an estimated acceleration time of 0 to 60mph in under 14 seconds, and a top speed of 87mph... real-world performance, in other words. It can also be recharged from a household outlet, regaining 50 percent of its capacity in just ten minutes. The Fe battery even addresses the “What will we do with all these expired electric car batteries?” quandary, by containing nothing but completely recyclable chemicals. That having been said, BYD predicts that one battery should last for the lifetime of the car.

Because of its powerful battery, the car itself doesn’t need to be overly small and lightweight - the e6 can seat five passengers plus luggage, and is described as a family-oriented crossover vehicle.

BYD now has a US base in California, and the e6 is currently undergoing certification to allow it to be sold in that country. The company is also seeking a third party to help with the development of a network of charging stations. There’s no word yet on price, although operating costs should be about a third of those for a gasoline-powered car.

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