A plant with capacity to produce 20,000 electric powered vehicles a year is currently under construction in Chinese port city of Tianjin.

According to Xinhua news agency, the plant will produce cars powered by battery, hybrid power and fuel cells. It covers an area of 16.5 acres, including a production base, a research and development centre and a testing centre, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2007.

The plant is being built by the Tianjin Qingyuan Electric Vehicle Co (QYEV), which will invest 165m yuan ($US21m) in the plant.

QYEV was established in 2001 by four companies: CATARC (principal shareholder), Tianjin Lishen Battery, Tianjin Lantian Hi-tech Power Sources and Tianjin Auto Industry Group. It describes its business as centered on R&D in the field of clean energy vehicles (pure EV, hybrid vehicle, alternative fuel vehicle, etc.).

The company produces the Happy Messenger pure electric vehicle (a battery-powered small minivan), which it developed itself, and electric versions of the top-selling Xiali model. That car is produced in Tianjin and uses Daihatsu technology.

According to Xinhua, QYEV exported 112 Happy Messengers to the US in 2005, and expects to have shipped more than 500 in 2006. The company is forecasting that it will export 5,000 electric cars to the US and another 5,000 to European and Asian markets within three to five years.