Kate Mackenzie Chinese electric vehicles (and jellyfish) rule world

We missed this report from last weekend that Chinese car manufacturer BYD is planning to spend $3.3bn on developing batteries over the next five years.

Here are a few random US electric vehicle (EV) investment announcements that made headlines over the past week. Note the difference in scale compared with BYD’s plans:

GM invests $246m to build electric motors in US

Fisker Automotive raises $115.3m

Better Place raises $350m

Perhaps it’s unfair to make a direct comparison - GM’s announcement was specifically for local manufacturing; Fisker Automative raised the money to qualify for a further $528.7m in federal loans, and Better Place is setting out to be a highly disruptive business, so big sums are not necessarily to be expected. And other manufacturers such as Nissan are also committed to big EV plans.

But BYD has a relatively captive market, and it has the backing of Warren Buffett to boot. If only it can get Americans to like its design…

Meanwhile a curious press release hit our inbox this morning, from a Cambridge firm called IDTechEx, saying that:

The complete market value is, and will remain, about double the market for cars. The leaders such as Toyota, Honda and Nissan make electric vehicles for many applicational sectors. Indeed, many of them also control the manufacture of the component that most affects price and performance – the battery. For example, Nissan has a major program to put next generation lithium batteries from its battery joint venture into its forklifts as well as its cars. Toyota makes heavy and light industrial EVs from forklifts to buses and mobility for the disabled, not just electric cars, and the knowledge in these different divisions is shared between them all. Much is written about hybrid cars but there are substantial sales of hybrid military trucks, buses and even motorcycles now.

The press release is touting a report – which wasn’t sent out – that even looks at “electric mobile robots, surveillance jellyfish and other Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), bats and electric aircraft”. Defined this way, they say, China already rules the market, manufacturing 90 per cent of electric vehicles.

Update: We’re awaiting word on whether we can see the report, but it actually looks more likely that the US rules the surveillance jellyfish space.

Related links:

BYD and the electric vehicle showdown (FT Energy Source)
Green Car Summit: All hands (almost) on deck for electric vehicles (Autoblog Green)