BYD e6 carsChina’s BYD e6 all-electric sedan.Photo: BYD


— China

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China just announced plans to build 1 million electric cars per year. Let’s put that in perspective: In Obama’s State of the Union Address, he said the U.S. should shoot for 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015, total.

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Here’s the really crazy part of this equation: a panel of U.S. auto industry experts thinks Obama’s plan is “too ambitious,” and that automakers are unlikely to meet that goal because of “uncertain consumer demand.” (As Todd Woody reported for Grist, the U.S. Department of Energy disagrees, arguing that 1 million by 2015 is in fact a conservative goal.)

China’s domestic market for vehicles is enormous, but not enough to absorb 1 million (initially relatively expensive) electric vehicles per year. So where are they going to go? Well, maybe you’ll be driving one. You and you and you and … you! Reuters:

BYD Co Ltd, a Chinese car and battery maker backed by Warren Buffett, expects to enter the mass U.S. auto market in the first quarter of 2012, starting with its e6 electric car model, its chairman said on Monday.

The Wizard of Omaha is backing a Chinese electric car manufacturer? You bet — Buffet knows which side his toast is buttered on. The side with money. BYD is already the world’s largest manufacture of cell phone batteries. Since the battery is the single most expensive part of an electric car, this gives it a potentially unassailable leg up in the race to make electric vehicles cost-competitive with gasoline-powered ones, reports The Guardian:

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[BYD F]ounder Wang Chuanfu […] has stated that BYD will be the biggest carmaker in China by 2015 and the biggest in the world by 2025.

Sounds like just about what it would take to be on track to produce 1 million electric vehicles a year by 2015. 

This is what a national commitment to weaning ourselves from oil as our sole meaningful transportation fuel would look like. Too bad it’s China launching this initiative and not us. From The Guardian, again:

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is pledged to invest more than 100 billion yuan over the next 10 years to support new energy vehicle production, “in order to make China the world’s largest new energy automobile production country”.