Green dragon

If their claims are accurate, Chinese engineers may well have cracked the biggest hurdle facing the mass rollout of electric cars.

According to BYD – a cellphone battery manufacturer turned car firm – its family-sized E6 electric car will do 250 miles on a single charge. What’s more, although the car takes eight hours to charge with a domestic plug – the firm, which plans to launch the vehicle in California later this year before rolling it out in China, also claims to have developed a fast charging point that could fill it up in just one hour. These are pretty exceptional claims: the all-electric Nissan Leaf , slated for launch next year – has a range of 100 miles, while the world’s top-selling electric car the G-Wiz will do just 50 miles on an eight hour charge.

So far, the company is playing its cards close to its chest, although its claims are perhaps given added credence by the fact that it’s ten percent owned by the legendary US investor Warren Buffett, a man not noted for backing losers.

The news is also a reminder that the old characterisation of China as the great-polluter in waiting, destined to repeat the worst mistakes of the industrial revolution, is an inaccurate and, for Western businesses, complacent view.

Without doubt, China’s rapid industrialization and spiraling energy demand is an environmental concern, but ever aware of commercial opportunity the country is also becoming an unlikely hotbed of low-carbon innovation.

This should act as a potent reminder that – if, as our government claims, the UK’s expertise in low carbon vehicles is going to carry us out of recession – we really need to get cracking. Because the home of the low-cost electronic device has its gaze fixed firmly on a lucrative new market.

Jon Excell
Deputy Editor