By on January 25, 2011

As the world’s first commercially-available (ish) plug-in hybrid, the BYD F3DM is one of the few modern cars that can legitimately claim a piece of automotive history. In full knowledge of this fact, a younger, more innocent version of myself once sent a number of emails to every possible BYD PR contact I could find, in hopes of securing an early review of the car that ushered in the plug-in automotive age. Needless to say, I never heard back from BYD… but I expected that. What I didn’t expect is that, years later, I still wouldn’t be able to find a real in-depth review of this mysterious yet potentially groundbreaking vehicle. Apparently BYD is either extremely cautious about letting writers experience its vehicles outside of convention hall laps and round-the-block drives… or the automotive media has a very poor sense of history. Or, as is most likely the case, both.

Either way, this strange state of affairs just got stranger: thanks to, we now have the first report of the F3DM’s performance on American roads… from an LA Public Housing Authority inspector. Yes, really.

On December 14, the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles (HACLA) received 10 F3DMs as part of a pilot program test fleet. Inspector Luisito Bacierto, speaking with, delivers his initial verdict on the F3DM’s stateside performance.

“If the battery is less than 25 percent [state of charge], the vehicle automatically goes from electric to H.E.V., which is the gasoline,” Bacierto said in an exclusive interview with “In that situation, it’s a different sound.” He described it as louder, more like a normal car. “It doesn’t bother me.” Bacierto added that the acceleration picks up in H.E.V. mode. “If you are going 55 miles per hour, you see 65 to 75 miles per hour [after it switches].” He said the switchover happened after 50 miles of driving on a full charge. Bacierto said the dashboard shows battery state of charge on a percentage basis—one of the metrics he is logging, in addition to miles driven, charge times, and amount of gasoline consumed.

Bacierto also goes onto describe

the overall driving experience as “smooth” and “not too fast, not too slow,” and compared the styling of the BYD F3DM to a 1980s Toyota Corolla. He said the charging process was easy. HACLA is not installing special charging equipment, but instead is using standard 220-volt outlets…

“With the Prius, I was filling up every two weeks,” Bacierto said. “The BYD car had a full tank in the middle of December. Yesterday, it’s a half tank. I haven’t put in gas yet.”

OK, so we would ask for more feedback on the interior and build quality, NVH attributes, and drivetrain characteristics as well as some solid performance and efficiency data, but for a novice to the business of car reviews, Bacierto’s doing pretty well for himself. After all, in the world of mainstream automotive journalism, it doesn’t really matter how well you write… it’s all about getting timely access to the important cars. By that standard, Bacierto’s got the car writing game in a chokehold with his exclusive look at the world’s first plug-in hybrid on American roads.

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17 Comments on “LA Public Housing Inspector Makes Auto Journalism History...”

  • avatar
    SVX pearlie

    So, it’s like the Volt, but simpler?

  • avatar

    “not too fast, not too slow.”
    Beautiful. I honestly can’t get the smile off my face…

  • avatar

    The guys driving those things are braver men than I. I wasn’t aware of any BMW – err, BYD cars being crash tested here; is there an exemption in certain circumstances?

  • avatar

    Leave it to the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles to facilitate opening up our market to Chinese cars. This is their job after all.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    The external appearance is a dead ringer for a 2003-2008 Corolla. It’s hilarious to me that a Chinese copycar actually made it to the US market.

  • avatar

    If I had my hands on this car, I would take it to a Toyota dealership with some vague complaint (the gas pedal thingie), and then see how long it takes until they realize that it’s not a Corolla.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      About a decade ago, a guy on a Mercedes forum mentioned that he took a gray market G-class (before they were officially imported) to a dealer in the US for some routine maintenance, and they told him to “get lost and take your Mitsubishi Montero with Benz stars on it with you”. True story.

  • avatar

    The Russians crash tested the 2008 BYD F3 with 64 km/h EuroNCAP standards:
    Not very promising, western cars performed like that in 1997.
    Tests by Autoreview are extremely harsh towards the safety of Russian cars also, so it’s not a propaganda piece made to look imports look bad.

    • 0 avatar

      Yikes, look at the way the roof buckled.  Here’s the 2002 Euro-Corolla in a similar test:
      And the 2003 Corolla in the IIHS offset test:
      Sometimes copies don’t turn out to be as good as the original. Still, at $28,000, it’s significantly cheaper than a Volt and will sell for that reason.

    • 0 avatar
      Ian Anderson

      A 1998 Geo Metro looks to have done marginally better or the same!:
      A 1993 fuel sipper on the other hand…
      My point is, the BYD and the Metro have the same target audience: people looking to get around on the smallest amount of gas possible. Gas mileages 1st, Safety 2nd (or 3rd or non-existent).

  • avatar

    Workmanship is also suspect.  Tried one out at the Detroit auto show.  The carpet under the driver’s feet was coming loose and the oddment bin on the center dash came completely out when you opened it.  I would agree with the Corolla comparison.

  • avatar

    How’s the heater?

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