Chinese EV maker BYD has purchased a facility in Lancaster, California, to house its electric bus manufacturing operations. The plant was formerly operated by Rexhall Industries, a maker of RVs. Several Rexhall employees, including company CEO William Rex, will stay on as the plant makes the transition to BYD ownership.
According to BYD, the manufacturing facility will begin producing buses in October, and will have an annual capacity of 1,000 units. The company will also begin operating a battery manufacturing facility in the coming months.
In April, the Long Beach Transit Authority awarded BYD a $12.1-million contract to produce 10 zero-emission electric buses. Opponents of the deal, including a rival bidder for the contract, were skeptical that BYD would be able to meet the requirement that the buses, which are scheduled to go into service in 2014, be built from at least 60 percent US-made parts.
At a press event in Lancaster this week, BYD Senior VP Stella Li told reporters that in fact, the buses will have more than 70 percent local content, or closer to 80 percent if one includes the two inductive chargers that will be made by Wave Inc, a Utah startup. The multiplex electronic control is coming from I/O Controls Corp in Azusa, California, and the batteries will be assembled from imported cells at a nearby California plant.
“This is the first time a Chinese bus company is opening a manufacturing plant in the US,” said Stella Li, adding that BYD still plans to bring its e6 electric sedan to America eventually. “We want to sell cars to consumers in the US in the next several years.”
Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris began talking with BYD in 2009, and visited the company’s headquarters in Shenzhen in 2010. This led to a joint project with homebuilder KB Home to create a “Home of the Future,” which used BYD’s solar panels, LED lighting and residential energy storage. “This innovative use of cutting-edge technology, coupled with the ability of the BYD/KB team to think outside the box to create the most affordable production green energy home our country had ever seen, was truly inspiring,” said Mayor Parris. “Their developing technologies dovetail perfectly with our community’s sustainable energy goals, while also providing stable green jobs for local residents.”
Also this week, BYD delivered six electric buses to the city of Schiermonnikoog in the Netherlands.
BYD’s electric bus is 40 feet long and can accommodate 60-70 passengers. It is powered entirely by the company’s lithium iron phosphate batteries, and has a range of over 155 miles per charge.