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Lancaster factory rolls out first electric buses
Question of the Day
LANCASTER, Calif. (AP) - A Chinese-owned company rolled out its first California-made electric buses Monday from a desert factory that aims to produce 1,000 of the plug-in vehicles a year.
Gov. Jerry Brown attended the unveiling ceremony for two 40-foot-long all-electric buses at the BYD Motors factory, which employs about 60 people in the Antelope Valley northeast of Los Angeles. The buses will be delivered to the Antelope Valley Transit Authority.
“This is a small beginning - a few buses - but it holds the promise of something very big and very important,” Brown said in a statement.
California has been courting Chinese businesses, offering tax breaks and touting its Pacific Rim connections.
BYD, which stands for “Build Your Dreams,” is the world’s largest manufacturer of rechargeable batteries. It is the largest domestic automaker and electric bus manufacturer in China.
The company has concentrated on California, establishing its North American headquarters in Los Angeles about three years ago.
The factory is a refurbished RV manufacturing plant in a wind-swept, sage-dotted corner of the Mojave Desert. BYD says it hopes to increase the workforce there to 100 by year’s end and to add another 200 employees by the end of next year.
Another Lancaster plant assembles energy modules that include the batteries which run the zero-emission vehicles.
The company says its buses can travel 155 miles between charges with a full load of passengers and the air conditioning running.
BYD hopes to sell them to cities, transit agencies and school districts.
The buses cost $700,000 to $800,000 each - about twice the price of a diesel bus.
However, each bus is expected to save about $400,000 over four years because of lower maintenance costs, said Micheal Austin, vice president of BYD America, which owns BYD Motors.
“You don’t have a transmission, you don’t have oil,” he said. “Fifty gallons of oil have to be replaced every five weeks in a diesel bus.”
The Lancaster bus factory has about 60 employees. The company plans to expand capacity by hiring more workers.
Although it doesn’t have contracts yet, BYD has said it expects the plant will be able to produce 1,000 buses a year within two decades.
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