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How a mobile phone battery maker beat Tesla to become the world’s largest EV company

This is the story of a young company that took a risky bet on electric vehicles (EVs) and grew into a giant.

No, it’s not Tesla.

It’s a brand you may not have heard of, because they sell so few cars in Australia.

But analysts say it may one day dominate the global auto industry.

The company is the Chinese car maker BYD, which recently overtook Tesla as the world’s largest EV company.

Having conquered China, it’s now racing to expand worldwide.

Experts say BYD and other Chinese EV-makers mark a new era in transportation, as significant as the Ford Model T in the 1900s, or the emergence of Japanese manufacturing in the 1970s.

Cars on display at the BYD section of the Shanghai car show

BYD has learned how to make EVs cheaper than the legacy car companies.(ABC News: Brant Cumming)

The rise has been meteoric. Two decades ago, BYD had not built a single car.

And 10 years before that, it was a start-up with a nondescript factory in Shenzhen making batteries for mobile phones.

“The BYD story is a 20-year-old story,” says Bill Russo, CEO of Automobility, a China-based investment advisory firm.

“And no-one took it seriously until the last 12 to 24 months when they started to outsell Tesla.

We’re gonna need a bigger battery

Back in 2003, Mr Russo was working for DaimlerChrysler (now Mercedes-Benz) in the US when colleagues returned from a scouting trip to China.

They told an outlandish story about a little-known company called BYD.

Its founder, Wang Chuanfu, saw a future in EVs.

“He had this notion of ‘We’re going to be a car company, we’re going to be an EV company,'” Mr Russo, who now lives in Shanghai, says.

“A lot of people at our company thought that was overly ambitious, to put it mildly.”

Eight years earlier, in 1995, Mr Wang had resigned from a government research job and borrowed 2.5 million yuan (equivalent to around $960,000 in today’s money) from a relative to build a factory to make mobile phone batteries.

A middle-aged Chinese man wearing glasses

BYD founder Wang Chuanfu in 2010.(Getty Images: Jonathon Wong)

The company he founded, BYD, stood for “Build Your Dreams”.

By the early noughties, it was the world’s second-largest producer of rechargeable batteries, supplying Motorola, Ericsson and Nokia.

But BYD saw a greater opportunity, Mr Russo says.

“The original intent was, ‘Hey, you know, I make batteries for small things. If I make batteries for bigger things, I could sell more batteries.'”

BYD saw what traditional car companies hadn’t, or were choosing to ignore.

Improvements in the cost and energy density of lithium-ion batteries opened the door to affordable EVs.

This article was originally published by a www.abc.net.au . Read the Original article here. .

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