Byd S6DM set for US image

The plug-in hybrid from the Chinese automaker BYD will go on sale in the U.S. in the second quarter of 2012. According to the automaker, S6DM is the “world’s first independent 4WD dual-mode electric SUV”, which is a title that might belong to Lexus’ RX.

“Our strategy in the U.S. market will probably focus on the pure electric segment,” Chairman Wang Chuanfu told Reuters in an interview at the Detroit auto show.

The SUV will be powered by 2 engines a small electric motor delivering 14hp for the front wheels and 2000 cc, 102 hp (75 kW) petrol engine attached to the rear wheels. A six six-speed dual clutch transmission handles power transfer.

Despite the “Dual-Mode” moniker, BYD says the system offers three driving-modes including electric only, hybrid gasoline-electric and gasoline engine only. In detail, here’s how the Chinese automaker describes each mode:

Fully electric (BEV) mode: At normal speeds, the vehicle can operate in its all-electric mode, with the electric motor (M2) propelling the rear wheels.
Hybrid gasoline-electric (HEV):
1. 2WD: The gasoline engine not only directly powers the vehicle, but also drives the electric motor (M1) at the front wheels to charge the battery pack.
2. 4WD: When more power is needed, the gas engine and the electric motor (M2) power the vehicle together. If the combined power is enough, the gasoline engine will also drive the electric motor (M1) to charge the battery pack. As speed increases, the gasoline engine can take over seamlessly with support from the 6-speed DCT; when braking, the gas engine automatically shuts down and the electric motor (M2) takes over.
3. 2WD: When battery power is low and not much driving power is required, the gasoline engine drives the electric motor (M1) to charge the battery pack and the electric motor (M2) powers the vehicle by itself.
Gasoline powered: When driving on the highway or in case the battery pack is depleted, the gasoline engine can power the vehicle on its own very efficiently.
BYD told Inside Line on Tuesday that it could not provide pricing estimates at this point. It did not have fuel economy estimates available either.

Best known for its innovative electric models and alternative power solutions, BYD will follow the launch of the e6 with the S6DM and eventually electric bus models.