Chinese EV automaker Build Your Dreams (BYD) is to set up a headquarters in Los Angeles, the firm announced at the weekend, in a significant boost to the Californian and wider electric car market.

In a joint press conference with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa, BYD Chairman Wang Chuanfu said that the new office will introduce BYD's E6 model EV into California for testing by the end of 2010, before expanding the program to Californian consumers.

By the end of next year, BYD plans to offer several models in the US market, said the company's US boss Stella Li.

With Governor Schwarzenegger describing the firm as doing "amazing work," BYD's entry into California is likely to cement the region's leading position in the global EV market.

Thanks to its well-developed infrastructure, California is already home to most of the EVs in the US and has pledged to be totally "electric-vehicle ready" by 2011.

BYD is set to compete directly against firms such as General Motors, which announced in 2009 that its new Chevrolet Volt would be deployed first to California. The state also houses EV sportscar maker Tesla, which was founded in Silicon Valley in 2003 and opened its first ever store in Los Angeles in 2008.

Perhaps more importantly, BYD's expansion signifies its ambition to compete on a level playing field with its international rivals, increasing the number of EVs available for US (and eventually global) consumers.

Earlier this year, it publicly stated that it intends to be the first Chinese automaker to enter the highly competitive market when it unveiled the E6 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The firm already produces one of China's top selling cars, the F3, which means that it has a strong starting position to compete overseas, something that California is keen to encourage.

"Do we believe that California has all the answers and we can solve the environmental problems? No, of course not," said Schwartzenegger.

"But we are out there and we are forming partnerships with other states, with other provinces, and also working together with other countries... So it is really terrific to have this great partnership here."

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