September 15, 2010 / 10:31 PM / in 8 years

Brazil's Batista eyes $1 bln electric car facility

* Billionaire Batista plans $1 bln electric car factory

* Facility to produce 100,000 units within four years

RIO DE JANEIRO, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista said on Wednesday he is planning an electric car factory with an investment of around $1 billion that will produce 100,000 vehicles per year within four years.

“It’s going to be a domestically made car with foreign know-how, from Europe and Japan,” said Batista, an industrial magnate who this year was ranked by Forbes as the world’s eighth richest person. “The trend toward electric cars is irreversible.”

Batista said the facility would be constructed within the Acu port complex in the state of Rio de Janeiro being built by his logistics firm LLX LLXL3.SA. This would create synergies by lowering the cost of importing products and reducing power costs, he said.

Brazil has one of the fastest-growing automotive markets in the world, and has been one of the few bright spots for auto-makers as economies in developed nations have struggled to emerge from recession.

But Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been lukewarm about electric cars, questioning whether they can be produced economically at commercial scale.

This may be in part because of Brazil’s booming biofuels sector that has benefited heavily from the widespread use of “flex-fuel” cars that can run on any combination of ethanol or gasoline.

“Just because of the logistics in Acu, we save $200 per car,” said Batista, owner of the EBX conglomerate that has subsidiaries involved mining, oil, electricity generation and logistics. “That’s a lot of money.”

He did not say which companies would be partners in the project.

Drivers would spend less than 10 percent charging the car than they would pay to fill tanks of conventional cars with gasoline or sugar-cane ethanol, Batista said.

Different versions of the car would have a driving range of 80 kilometers (50 miles) to 120 kilometers (75 miles), with varying costs, he added.

Electric car batteries, considered a key obstacle to the widespread deployment of electric cars, are likely to decline in price and increase in capacity much the same way microchips did in recent decades, he said. (Reporting by Brian Ellsworth. Editing by Robert MacMillan)

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