PHOTO CAPTION: BYD F6DM Plug-in Hybrid Electric Car

Warren Buffett Backs BYD's Electric Car Venture

Berkshire Hathaway-controlled MidAmerican Energy will help sell Chinese-made electric cars in the U.S.

Published: 29-Sep-2008

Warren Buffett has taken a green leap forward. Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy, controlled by Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA), plans to pay about $231 million for a 10% stake in Chinese auto and battery maker BYD Co. which expects to roll out fully electric cars before the end of next year.

The deal represents Buffett's first strategic investment in China and shows he's betting on alternative energy in a major way. "I think the world has concluded we need to solve the CO2 problem," says MidAmerican Chairman David Sokol. "One area we must seriously affect is transport."

BYD made a splash at the Detroit Auto Show in January when it unveiled a prototype hybrid electric car (BusinessWeek, 1/10/08), which it said it would export to the U.S. by 2010. The backing of Berkshire Hathaway, which owns 87% of MidAmerican, will help BYD launch a fully electric car, selling for about $20,000. "Warren Buffett is very well respected globally as well as in China, so as an investor he will help us build our brand," says BYD Chairman Wang Chuanfu.


Ray Lane, managing partner of venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins, Caufield and Byers, which has invested in Think, believes Think could eventually sell as many as 30,000 to 50,000 City cars a year.

The production electric vehicle to be introduced in 2010 will have a unique bodystyle and is not based on any existing Nissan model, unlike the technology 'mule' pictured above.

The 100-mile range electric car has been operating with Japanese power companies for the last two years.


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