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BYD likely to provide 10 e-buses for Long Beach amid controversy

A fleet of 10 all-electric buses may be plying the roads in Long Beach, California, and those buses will be produced in the U.S., despite carrying a badge from BYD, the Chinese automaker, PluginCars.com reported.

BYD was one of the 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 the buses would be Buy America compliant,” said Kevin Lee, public information officer for Long Beach Transit.

Chinese reports said BYD would begin producing electric buses in the U.S. in 2013. BYD senior vice president Stella Li said the production capacity will exceed 500 vehicles starting 2015. The price tag would be $550,000 to $600,000 each.

Long Beach Transit leaders however had to delay its decision to award the contract to BYD after being challenged by a South Carolina company also vying for the contract and others over why the transit agency would select a Chinese company over an American one, according to thetransitwire.com.

The website said Marc Gottschalk, chief business development officer of Proterra, described BYD as a company with “a history of overpromising and under-delivering” in a 16-page letter to Long Beach Transit.

Gottschalk wrote that his company was surprised that transit staff recommended awarding the “scarce federal grant and local dollars” to a Chinese company “that has presented a bus that has virtually no U.S.-made content, has no U.S. manufacturing (and) has no buses in revenue service in the United States. ”

“BYD has far more experience with electric buses than any other competitor, Proterra included, and has far more experience designing buses, shipping buses and building buses than Proterra ever could. This is an act of desperation.” Michael Austin, vice president of BYD America, disputed the charges from Proterra.

Austin said that BYD and BYD America are U.S. subsidiaries and that the company has satisfied all of Long Beach Transit’s requirements.

Long Beach Transit president and CEO Larry Jackson justified his agency’s decision. “It’s an industry just starting to form and everyone wants to do it, but not many are producing vehicles, particularly in the U.S.”

BYD’s Austin added that BYD plans a manufacturing facility in California where the Long Beach buses will be built. “What’s ironic is that these jobs being created to build these buses are California jobs,” he said.

Records show that BYD has expanded its green bus services to European, North and South American markets. 

The board of Long Beach Transit will possibly vote on the contract.

 

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