BYD’s Incredibly Sensible House of the Future
October 16, 2009 at 05:30 AM EDT
SHENZHEN, CHINA-- One of my very early posts for TechCrunch referenced the “futurism” of 1950s Americana, where companies like Monsanto and Disney played out dreamy visions of a new automated way of living that never quite came true. I’m writing this post from Shenzhen, in Southern China—a place whose jaw-droppingly impractical-yet-beautiful architecture and building-size LED-lit billboards make the city look like it could be the set for just that kind of dreamy science fiction megatropolis. (Example? The other nights I had drinks outside the InterContinental’s bar, which is shaped like a huge pirate ship .) So imagine my expectations when I set out to see BYD’s “Village of the Future.” BYD—for those who don’t know—is a Chinese powerhouse of battery innovation with more than 130,000 employees, roughly 10% of whom work in R&D. The company is a living, breathing reality check to Westerners who think Southern China is merely a hub for assembling the technology U.S. designs. My BYD guide told me that the company gets at least one member of Western media coming through the office a week, many of them shocked that a Chinese company could be so innovative.