Green

BYD looks beyond EVs to home energy management

BYD Auto, one of China’s most ambitious electric-vehicle makers, just stretched its reach a bit further. Backed with $250 million from none other than Warren Buffett, the company was already prepping its all-electric E6 sedan for the U.S. market by the end of 2010. Now it’s looking to carve out a niche for itself in the growing home energy management market, according to CNET.

BYD will be stepping away from its automotive focus to offer energy-efficiency products to homeowners. These include solar panels, large energy storage systems (not unlike the one Panasonic is working on), and light-emitting-diode lighting systems — not to mention software solutions for monitoring and automating how and when energy is used in real time.

The company — which started out as a battery and consumer-electronics maker — has been inching toward this type of strategy for a while, growing its presence in advanced battery manufacturing and vehicle charging systems. Both are closely linked with broader grid and energy opportunities.

To showcase its other energy technologies, including solar panels and home-scale batteries, BYD has teamed up with a company called KB Home to build a prototype low-energy house in California. It says it plans to roll out similar systems to other contractors, particularly those located in states with generous government rebates on green energy installations. California is a prime example.

Breaking into home energy efficiency is a bold move for BYD, which will come into direct competition with Panasonic. It has also diversified its solar offerings with the acquisition of Sanyo, and seems to be leading the pack when it comes to grid-scale storage systems capable of storing energy loads generated but not used during off-peak hours.

BYD isn’t exactly an underdog. It has the distinction of being the fastest-growing automaker in a country where car sales are increasing explosively. Last quarter, its profits tripled to $249 million, a spike attributed to higher demand for its vehicles. Over the course of 2009, its profits nearly quadrupled to $555.2 million from the sale of 162 percent more cars.