While still better known as the world's largest manufacturer of batteries for cell phones and laptops, China's BYD Co. has just launched the world's first mass-produced plug-in electric vehicle. Based on the company's fairly conventional F3 sedan
, this four-door dubbed F3DM (for Dual Mode) will go on sale in China next year for about $22,000, and may make its way to Europe and North America by 2011. Unlike other electric vehicles, the F3DM uses a battery based on lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) chemistry developed by BYD. This power cell has a projected lifespan of over 370,000 miles or 10 years, can withstand 4,000 recharge cycles and will allow the F3DM to run up to 62 miles on pure electric power before a small gas engine kicks in to extend the total range closer to 270 miles. Fully replenishing it takes about seven hours using a normal electrical outlet, but BYD says a 50 percent quick charge can be done in roughly 10 minutes.