As China makes its evolution from mass-producers of cheap low-tech junk (think thin plastic shower caps and SpongeBob toothbrushes) to high-tech designers and manufacturers, one big step in that direction is being played out at a company called BYD (Build Your Dream).

From their humble beginnings as a small cell phone battery manufacturer a mere 13 years ago, BYD now has seven plants in China with 130,000 employees, all focused on one thing: producing a high-quality electric vehicle. Their EV is called the F3DM, a plug-in gas-electric hybrid with a battery-only range of 80 miles, released as a test fleet of 200 taxicabs in China this month. BYD hopes to have the F3DM to market in Europe by 2011.

Skeptics have scoffed at BYD's EV ambitions, saying that BYD doesn't know anything about making cars; BYD points to its purchase of two established Chinese auto makers six years ago and adds that building cars is far easier than creating new battery technology, something at which they've excelled (one-third of cell phone batteries currently in use across the globe come from BYD). Those same skeptics took another look at BYD in September, when Warren Buffet, famous for his savvy investments, paid $230 million for a 10% stake in BYD.

BYD: 1
Skeptics: 0