China's BYD Opens Electric Bus Production Plant in California

By · May 02, 2013

Sign at BYD Bus Plant Opening

Opening of BYD's electric bus production facility.

Chinese electric vehicle maker BYD has its eye on the U.S. consumer market, even though it’s focused on fleets for the time being. “We want to sell cars to consumers in the U.S. in the next several years,” BYD senior vice president Stella Li told reporters yesterday. BYD could localize production of passenger cars here in about 10 years, she said.

Li was in Lancaster, a desert city about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, where BYD just opened a production plant. The plant will initially produce electric buses, starting in October. BYD aims to turn out 50 units in the first year. The plant will have an annual capacity of 1,000 units, said Li.

“The is the first time a Chinese bus company is opening a manufacturing plant in the U.S. and the first North and South America plant for BYD,” Li told a gathering that included officials from Lancaster, Los Angeles County, the state of California, and several municipal transit companies.

BYD already has a contract with the Long Beach Transit for 10 ebuses, which will be in service in the first half of 2014, Long Beach Transit spokesman Kevin Lee told PluginCars.com. Stanford University has also placed on order for three ebuses, said BYD fleet sales manager Joel Reikes.

Made in the U.S.A., By a Chinese Company

BYD's eBus

BYD's eBus

BYD has plants that assemble buses from imported parts—known as knock-down assembly—in numerous other countries, including Egypt and Bulgaria. Though some of the parts for the plant in Lancaster will be imported from China, Long Beach Transit used federal funds to buy the BYD buses, and one of the funding conditions is that the BYD ebuses must have at least 60 percent U.S.-produced content.

BYD e6 in Lancaster, Calif.

The BYD e6 electric car, once trumpeted by the company as imminently ready for the U.S. market, was in the shadows at the Lancaster event.

That isn’t a problem, said Li. The buses will have more than 70 percent local content, she said, and that is before considering the inductive chargers that will be used in Long Beach. If they are included, “It is close to 80 percent,” said Li. Those chargers are from Wave Inc., a Utah startup, and are considered part of the local content, said John Inglish, a Wave director, in an interview with PluginCars.com. It will install two chargers in Long Beach.

Among additional local content, the batteries for the ebuses will be assembled at a nearby plant using imported cells. And, the multiplex electronic control is sourced from I/O Controls Corp. in Azusa, Calif., Michael Kuang, vice president of engineering at I/O Controls, told PluginCars.com.

Electric Passenger Cars T.B.D.

BYD initially planned to enter the U.S. consumer market with its e6 electric sedan. But plans for retail sales here were postponed so BYD could improve the quality of the e6. Several of the latest iterations of the electric vehicle, which is now a crossover, were at the Lancaster event, as were a few of BYD’s older F3DM dual-mode hybrids. The F3DM is no longer produced. At the Shanghai Auto Show in April, BYD touted the next-generation dual mode vehicle, called the Qin.

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