BYD F3DM: The Chinese Volt

Chinese automaker BYD introduced their BYD F3DM EREV (Extended Range Electric Vehicle) here in Detroit, a car similar to the Chevy Volt. Except the BYD hybrid's already in production. Also, it's half the price.

BYD F3DM: The Chinese Volt

BYD F3DM: The Chinese Volt

BYD F3DM: The Chinese Volt

BYD F3DM: The Chinese Volt

BYD F3DM: The Chinese Volt

BYD F3DM: The Chinese Volt

BYD F3DM: The Chinese Volt

BYD F3DM: The Chinese Volt

BYD F3DM: The Chinese Volt

The first thing to note about the BYD F3DM is not the drivetrain; we've seen vehicles promising electric power backed by a small gas motor before. It's the design, which is a blend of decade-old Japanese design, is also not particularly noteworthy. The first key is the battery.

The ferrous battery pack in the F3DM apparently requires no expensive heavy metals. It's also apparently recyclable. It gives the BYD enough power to drive 62 miles without using a drop of gas. Unlike most other battery alternatives, a user can quick-charge the vehicle and achieve half the electric range in just 10 minutes at a special charging station. A full charge takes the industry standard six-to-eight hours to fully charge while a high power charging station can do the job in three hours.

The second thing to note is the participation of Warren Buffett, who owns 10% of BYD through Berkshire Hathway. Why did Buffett buy a Chinese electric car company? One of his biggest holdings is in MidAmerican Energy, which through its subsidiaries is one of the nation's largest energy providers. MidAmerican can provide the power to "fuel" these electric vehicles.

The final aspect to consider is BYD is ready to sell these cars, at a low price of approximately $22,000, in China. Since the F3DM is already on sale, perhaps it would be better to call the Volt the American F3DM.