Dude, Where’s My Electric Car?
If 80’s Sci-Fi flicks had it right, I’d have come to work this morning via Jetpack and my lunch would have consisted of pellets that turn into a giant bowl of chicken when placed in the microwave; or perhaps, I would have driven to work in my electric powered car, courtesy of a forward-looking company like BYD or Tesla…Alas, it seems we’re just not there yet, or are we?
While Jetpacks and Insta-Chicken (copywrite-pending) may be a bit farfetched (maybe not), no one can blame me for thinking that we could at least get electric cars right by this point. That is not to say that we aren’t making progress on this front, with real-life Iron Man, Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster already in production and selling for a whopping 100,000USD as well as the Chevrolet Volt, the most likely to succeed on this front seems to be a Shenzhen company that probably made the battery in your cell phone.
BYD (1211:HK) started off making batteries, eventually becoming the largest manufacturer of rechargeable batteries in the world, supplying the majority of cell phone and other portable device makers. In 2003, after going IPO in Hong Kong the previous year, they bought a little-known car company and a few short years later, were selling their cars nation-wide and internationally. They’ve done so well, in fact that they even garnered the attention of Warren Buffet, the Oracle of Omaha, who bought 10% of the company, saying it had the potential to become the biggest car manufacturer in the World. In 2010 their F3 was the best-selling car in China and it looked like they were ready to surpass even their American counterparts to launch the first viable electric car on the market but was hampered by a lack of infrastructure to support the longer-distance travel with a fully electric vehicle and general product delays.
But that fear may have been a bit premature. This Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of Shenzhen’s first electric taxies, of which I’m sure many of you have had the chance to ride in, they’re not bad. With Shenzhen also planning 5 power-up stations in the next year and another 10 by 2020, Shenzhen may well be the first city in the World to be fully EV capable. With BYD’s cars priced at well below their competitors, they may well still be in the running to capture a large portion of the market, how large that market will be and how quickly it develops, may well determine its own success.
What do you think? Would you be in the market for a new electric car? Or would you wait for some of your friends to get one first?