Long Beach Electric Buses Made in America, By Chinese Company

By · March 12, 2013

BYD electric bus

A fleet of ten all-electric buses may soon be plying the roads in Long Beach, Calif. Those buses will be produced here in the U.S.A., despite carrying a badge from BYD, the Chinese automaker.

BYD was one of five companies that responded to a request for proposal in October, 2012 by Long Beach Transit for the purchase of 10 all-electric buses. Long Beach Transit recommended to the board on February 25 that BYD’s bid be accepted.

Federal funding would be used to purchase the buses, so they must be Buy America compliant, containing 60 percent U.S. content with final assembly in the U.S. “BYD has confirmed that (its buses) would be Buy America compliant,” Kevin Lee, public information officer for Long Beach Transit told PluginCars.com.
Long Beach Transit held a study session on March 1 to discuss the recommendation and another such session is likely in the coming weeks. “A decision will made by the Board once they feel they have all the necessary information,” said Lee.

China’s Xinhua news agency reported in December that BYD would begin producing electric buses in the U.S. in 2013. “Starting in 2015, the production capacity will exceed 500 vehicles,” Xinhua quoted BYD senior vice president Stella Li as saying. The price tag would be $550,000 to $600,000 each, said Li.
California is the likely location for the plant. BYD’s North American headquarters is located in Los Angeles. BYD spokesman Michael Austin confirmed that BYD bid was being considered by the Long Beach Transit, but would not confirm they will be produced in California.

BYD has found more success with its electric bus than with its all-electric sedan. The Chinese automaker initially planned to sell the e6 sedan here in the U.S. but postponed those plans. It has continued to seek out contracts for its bus, however.

According to the company’s website, the BYD ebus uses a Fe battery developed by BYD. It can travel 155 miles on a single charge and the battery is fully recharged in three to six hours on a BYD charger, says BYD. “The energy consumption of the ebus is less than 100 kWh per 60 miles,” says BYD.
To be sure, the ebus is nice looking. It is roomy and attractive, with a low floor for easy access One BYD electric bus is already in the area. Hertz uses it as a shuttle bus at LAX airport.

The criteria Long Beach Transit used to select the BYD ebus included pricing and lifecycle cost, charging station operational considerations, coach operational considerations, and the experience of the firm and its response to inquiries, said Lee.

Funding to purchase the electric buses came from a federal grant. Given the uproar over Wanxiang’s purchase of A123, Long Beach Transit may encounter some opposition if it does decide to purchase BYD’s electric buses.

Is Long Beach Transit concerned about political backlash, I asked Lee?
“Long Beach Transit’s goal is to be 100 percent alternatively fueled in the near future,” he said via email. “We are about 70 percent now. When procuring any new buses, we are concerned that they are the right fit for the Long Beach Transit fleet, our company, and our community.”

I think that means maybe.

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