In a week where US Coda Automotive has launched its 2011 Sedan, an all-electric vehicle based upon the chinese-made Hafei Saibao, China’s own electric car industry is undergoing some interesting changes. 

BYD, backed by U.S. businessman Warren Buffet, has been making loud noises in the electric vehicle world for many months, claiming that its all-electric E6 would be available to purchase in some U.S. states by 2011. 

Deeply embroiled in several legal battles over industrial espionage and, more recently, a government case in which it is accused of building a factory on incorrectly zoned land,  BYD is looking less likely to make true on its promises. 

The battery firm turned automaker could face severe punishment if found guilty of building its factory on land set aside for agriculture. The case, which is due to be ruled on by September 30, has already impacted on the company’s share value. 

Poor economic climate and extremely poor sales figures have led BYD dealers to offer increasingly large discounts to incentivise customers to buy BYD cars. 

However, with just 48 sales of its F3DM plug-in hybrid last year, BYD may have to put its plans on hold to become the world’s leading EV maker. 

None of this is good news for Buffet, whose latest visit to China this month with fellow philanthropist Bill Gates aims to inspire China’s wealthy to donate altruistically to those less fortunate. 

But while BYD appears to be struggling, another Chinese company has just received a welcome boost from American firm ZAP. At a press conference earlier this week ZAP CEO Steve Schneider announced that it had completed a 51 percent shareholding in Zhejiang’s Jonway UFO brand. 

zap alias electric vehicle 007

zap alias electric vehicle 007

With aims to sell an all-electric version of the UFO SUV to taxi fleets across china, Zap Jonway’s entrance into the Chinese taxi market place is obviously a shot across the bows of BYD’s existing all-electric taxi fleet. 

We’ve been skeptical in the past of ZAP, which has a long and complicated history in the EV world, including an expose by Wired magazine

The ZAP Xebra range of low-speed electric vehicles are hardly vehicles we get excited about, and we’ve been waiting for many years for the enigmatic Zap Alias to make it production. But despite being in the final group of EVs to make it to the final of the Automotive X-Prize there is no word yet on when the futuristic three-wheeler will make it to market. 

So what is Zap planning? We’re not sure the move to China will result in an all-electric Zap/Jonway EV making it to the U.S. any time soon, although a version of the gasoline-powered Jonway is approved for sale in Italy, making it conceivable that an electric version could make it to Europe. 

[Bloomberg] [China Car Times]