Chinese auto giant BYD is one of the world’s leaders in the field of hybrid vehicles, having been the first in the market with a mass-produced plug-in hybrid back in 2009--albeit in China only--and now with several small fleets of plug-in hybrid models here in the U.S. These are small-scale tryouts of BYD's technology, with one fleet being used by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA).

BYD claims the F3DM will do 62 miles on the power provided by a 15.6-kilowatt-hour lithium battery pack, with another 300 miles provided by a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder gasoline engine. Charging takes about seven hours on a 220 volt outlet, though the company claims the battery can be charged up to 50 percent capacity with a special outlet.

Unlike every other hybrid on the market, the F3DM has three separate modes of operation. It can run on pure electric power; it can operate as a series hybrid like the 2011 Volt, using the engine just to recharge the battery; and it can also act as a parallel hybrid like the 2010 Toyota Prius, with the gasoline engine driving the vehicle directly, aided by the electric motor.

HGM contributor Alysha Webb recently paid a visit to the HACLA and managed to get some seat time in one of BYD’s latest F3DM plug-in hybrid sedans. After riding in the car, Webb’s opinion was that BYD has some work to do before its vehicles are ready for mass-market sale in the U.S. Here’s a look at some of the reasons why.

Despite starting off with 100 percent charge reading, the test car said there was only 88 percent charge remaining after just two miles of driving. Webb’s conclusion was that the car’s battery needs some improvement, perhaps even some testing at Argonne National Lab where most other automaker’s batteries are tested independently.  

Webb also determined the car’s styling to be outdated and its interior packaging a bit on the small scale. Follow the jump below for her full review.

[ChinaEV]