DETROIT – BYD Co. Ltd., the Chinese auto maker that four years ago planned to be a leading maker of electric vehicles, now is expanding its environmental-friendly strategy.

In a presentation at the North American International Auto Show here, BYD Chairman Wang Chuanfu proposes the auto maker’s Green Dream in answer to arguments that EVs merely displace carbon-dioxide emissions.

BYD’s strategy is to sell solar cells and storage batteries to capture sun energy that can be transferred to the vehicle. The auto maker also will push its light-emitting diodes solution on the side.

“Our vision is not just cars, it is a zero-emissions solution,” says Michael Austin, BYD vice president of U.S. operations.

Americans used to the slick communications of major auto makers easily could consider BYD as just another over-ambitious Chinese car company whose promises don’t match its abilities.

However, BYD did bring its first plug-in hybrid vehicles to the U.S. late last year as a test fleet for the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles. And it does have Warren Buffet as an investor, not to mention the auto maker has had a presence at the Detroit show for four straight years.

Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler AG, met with Wang after his presentation and says the BYD-Daimler joint project to make an electric car in China is on track for launch in 2013. And “it is a pretty car,” he says.

BYD still has a long way to go before it will be a household name here, but it has begun discussions with dealers, including Jared Wade, whose family sells 14 different brands in different cities around the U.S.

Wade says BYD’s technology is saleable and the company needs only to improve fit and finish to sell cars in the U.S.

BYD brings its F3DM plug-in hybrid to NAIAS, as well as the e6 electric car now being used in a taxi fleet in China.

The F3DM has been on sale since March to the general public in China, but sales are small, at about 100 a month. In contrast, the gasoline-powered F3 is China’s top-selling vehicle for the second straight year.

BYD’s mid-term strategy for China is aimed at electric busses and taxi fleets.

A diesel bus uses as much fuel as 30 gas-powered cars, so replacing them with electric models will make a rapid improvement in fuel consumption, Austin argues.

There are 1.2 million taxis in China that are high-mileage vehicles, and replacing them with electric taxis will leverage fuel savings, as well, he says.