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China: Reds Go Green
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China: Reds Go Green
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Element: Harsha

Can the world's biggest polluter become the world's biggest producer of plug-in electric cars? That's what Chinese car manufacturer BYD Auto is hoping as it launches its new F3DM model.

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Segment 1

TITLE
Reds Go Green
VOICEOVER
China is savoring the fruits of its economic boom, but it's also counting the costs. Its cars and industry are now the world's biggest emitters of carbon dioxide. But, according to the Chinese, this is the brand-spanking-new answer to their car pollution problem: It's a plug-in electric car, made by a company called BYD, which stands for "build your dream."
PAUL LIN [Marketing Manager, BYD]
China auto market is racing.
VOICEOVER
Paul Lin is BYD's marketing manager, and this is their gleaming showroom in the southern city of Shenzhen. BYD started life as a maker of mobile phone batteries just 13 years ago, and has only been producing cars for five.
PAUL LIN
And we find our battery not only can be used for the mobile phone or some kind of the electronic consumer devices. It can be also used for cars, used for solar panels, used for everything. So, based on that, we acquired a state-owned company in 2003, a car company to enter the auto business.
TITLE
BYD promotional video
VOICEOVER
The car they've come up with is the F3. It runs up to 100 kilometers on battery power alone -- enough for the average commute, says the manufacturer. And, when the battery runs low, the petrol engine switches in.
PAUL LIN
Which means it can run for more than 100 kilometers by pure electric mode. And, after that, you want to go longer distance, the gasoline engine will start and support.
VOICEOVER
And, according to the company's promotional video, there are a number of options for refueling.
VIDEO COMMENTARY
You can choose refueling in gas station, quick recharging in charging station, standard household power outlet, or solar panel recharging creates your convenient life.
VOICEOVER
While the solar panel is something they're still working on, the makers insist this is more than just another eco-friendly hybrid. They claim no other car has yet been able to travel so far on just battery power.
PAUL LIN
If you only go for less than 100 kilometers per day, you can go back home and charge the car in your garage. And, in another day, you just go to work by pure electric mode again.
VOICEOVER
Outside the showroom, I get the chance to try one for myself.
WOMAN
Turn the key.
REPORTER
Turn the key?
WOMAN
Yes.
VOICEOVER
Inside, everything about the car looks normal: the steering wheel, dashboard. The only difference is how it's powered.
REPORTER
So the care is now powered by battery?
WOMAN
Yes.
REPORTER
Well, it's not going to win any awards for style, this car, but it certainly has a real kick. Quite a powerful acceleration. It's very smooth, in fact; smoother than I thought.
VOICEOVER
BYD believes its batteries give it a winning edge.
WOMAN
All our batteries are recycled, the power is recycled so it's environmentally beneficial. So people will like it, not only China. Most Western people will like it very much
REPORTER
Chairman Mao said the East is red, but maybe the East is green.
WOMAN
Right.
VOICEOVER
The batteries can be fully charged in nine hours from a regular electrical outlet, or much faster at BYD's own charging stations, of which there are only seven so far, but the plan is eventually for thousands. Green technology has long been in the slow lane in China. But it now seems to recognize the need to reduce its fast-growing dependence on crude oil and to limit its choking emissions.
TITLE
Green tech for tomorrow
VIDEO COMMENTARY
In contemporary society, severe energy deficiency, carbon dioxide emissions of automobile, and air pollution are the three main current environmental issues in the world.
CHRISTIAN BASSET [Environmental Activist, Clean the Air]
I am totally convinced that, especially concerning roadside pollution in every large Chinese city, China wants to solve it, and using an electric car is a way to drastically reduce roadside air pollution.
VOICEOVER
Hong Kong environmental activist Christian Basset says electric cars would be a small, but important, milestone.
REPORTER
Even if 10 percent of China's motorists started driving electric cars in the next 10 years, what impact would that have?
CHRISTIAN BASSET
The impact would not be ... may not be tremendous on the scale of the country. However, as a green organization, we see it as a sign, we see it as an evolution of the mentalities. And, if more people think about green cars, if more people think about green technology, so much the better.
VOICEOVER
Ordinary Chinese certainly seem impressed by the idea of a greener car. The visitors today: local customs officers, beaming national pride.
CUSTOMS OFFICER
I was talking to the engineers about the car. They are very proud of their achievement. I feel really inspired by them. I'm very proud of them.
VOICEOVER
After recent scandals, the central government is actively trying to rebuild confidence in the "made in China" brand. It's already placing its own orders for the homegrown hybrid, a sort of green nationalism.
PAUL LIN
And China's government is concentrating day-by-day and time-by-time on letting the public know the new energy car will be the future.
VOICEOVER
The F3 will cost around AUD$32,000 and, while there are no plans yet to sell it in Australia, BYD hope to have it in US showrooms within two years, and in Europe shortly after. China is positioning itself as a growing power in clean-energy technologies that will one day fuel the world economy, which is probably why Warren Buffett, the shrewd U.S. investor, has just paid USD$230 million for a 9 percent stake in the company. But this isn't the first attempt to mass-produce an electric car. Three years ago, Dateline reported from America on the rise and fall of General Motors' electric car. While many believe it was the victim of big oil interests, GM's head of PR, Dave Barthmuss, told Dateline that consumers just weren't interested.
DAVID BARTHMUSS [Head of Public Relations, General Motors]
People did not demand EV1 from GM in large enough numbers for us to pursue it. I have not seen an auto company come out with a battery program that has a vehicle that will have the kind of range and quick charge that's needed to appeal to a mass market at a price point where the common man and woman can afford it on a monthly basis.
VOICEOVER
Ladies and gentleman, that's the sound of a crushed automobile being shredded into a million pieces.
VOICEOVER
But now the electric car is having its revenge. Having scuppered it once before, General Motors is planning to unveil a new plug-in vehicle next year. But BYD has beaten them to the punch: the F3 goes on sale in China later this year. It's another blow to the US car industry, from a company with its sights set on world domination.
PAUL LIN
Our ambitions in China is in 2015 to become the China number one, and we hope in 2025 we can become the world number one. Of course it's by our new energy car.
VOICEOVER
The looming recession offers opportunity to an auto newcomer that has come a long way very quickly.
TITLE
Dateline
TITLE
[end credits]