The Chinese car-and-battery maker already beat GM, Toyota, and Nissan to market with the first plug-in hybrid. Now the 15-year-old company is on the verge of doing the same with its all-electric full-size E6--which BYD wants to start selling in the U.S. by the end of 2010, even though it doesn't yet have a single stateside dealership. BYD's major competitive advantage is that it develops world-leading battery technology in-house. The E6 uses the "Fe," BYD's lithium-ion ferrous phosphate battery. BYD says the battery not only costs about 50% less than standard lithium-ion batteries but also lasts longer, with an impressive expected life of 2,000 charge cycles and a range of 200 miles on a full charge. The battery's fluid is even nontoxic--CEO Wang Chuan-Fu famously drank some last year to demonstrate. And in its quest for cheaper, cleaner batteries, the company has already begun investing in solar technology, calling it "new energy." That could be an apt name if BYD succeeds, not just for its own business but for the car industry.

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