Long Beach: Uh-Oh, (More) Flaws Discovered in BYD Electric Buses

Looks like the electric buses coming from China-based company Build Your Dreams (BYD)—the ones procured by both Long Beach Transit (LBT) and Los Angeles Metro—are becoming an even larger nightmare.

Dignataries from Shenzhen, China, Los Angeles and BYD at the grand opening of their North American Headquarters in L.A. Live. Photo:##http://www.ecns.cn/2011/10-25/3292.shtml##ECNS##

First, we had the beyond-sketchy RFP process earlier this year where LBT went with BYD over Altoona-tested-and-ready-to-go South Carolina electric bus manufacturer Proterra. This was despite multiple questions regarding BYD’s capability to fulfill the buy America clause set forth by the TIGGER grant given to LBT to procure the vehicles. This was also despite a failure to have any form of Altoona testing done and their ultimately failure in establishing promised North American headquarters in Los Angeles and Windsor, Canada. And this was also despite the fact that they lied about who they had already built accounts with as well fibbing the results of a trial run of one their buses.

Secondly, after BYD scored the bid and finally began the process of Altoona testing, it turns out they were not fairing so well: cracks in the rear of the bus caused the bus to be returned with the problem ultimately being rooted back to “low-quality welding” in China.

Well, we now have more welding issues, all of which come from China. It was reported that LBT inspectors have found that the frames—the very ones that Executive Director and Vice President of Maintenance and Facilities at LBT Rolando Cruz said were the “tinker toy” parts being sent to the United States for assembly—are flawed.

According to the Long Beach Business Journal, the frames had “unacceptable” issues, including “improper bracket installation on the bus sidewalls and roof assemblies and inconsistencies with steel subassemblies on the chassis.”

Cruz has insisted that these flawed frames are for a BYD “engineering bus” separate from the actual LBT pilot bus. Well, that assurance… certainly alleviates worries. In the words of LBT Boardmember Maricela De Rivera—one of only two board members, joining Lori Ann Farrell, who voted against providing BYD the contract—”Why not wait to see if there are more problems before building an engineering bus?”

LBT’s response avoided any direct comment:

“One of LBT’s top priorities is safety. We pride ourselves on sending safe, reliable and clean buses down our streets for our customers and community. Finding issues with the frames and making sure they are corrected before buses are built is part of that safety commitment. We’re excited about adding zero-emission buses to our increasingly alternatively fueled fleet. Long Beach will be the first in the country to have a battery bus fleet of this size and with groundbreaking inductive charging. We will be leading the charge—pun intended—in what seems to be the future of public transportation.”

BYD America’s Vice President, Micheal Austin, gave the following response:

“Samantha [Mehlinger of the Long Beach Business Journal] gave us the chance to respond and we commented already. When are you going to sell your shares in Proterra?”

Well, glad to know BYD not only creates soundly engineered buses but also harbors a deep pride in professionalism.

When are we getting those buses again?

(Editor’s note: Brian Addison does not own stock in Proterra. – DN)

  • Chris

    Did BYD (Build Your Dreams, not “Beyond Your Dreams”) kick your dog or sleep with your wife? This company is trying to bring bags of money and jobs to the California economy, which is something we would not get from Proterra. They’ve already invested a lot of money setting up facilities in California with the expectation of gaining more North American contracts. While I can appreciate a resentment of the outsourcing of the U.S.’s production of goods to China, this is actually the opposite of that. I think your frustration with cheap Chinese labor might be better directed in writing an article about how most American car companies have production facilities in China while Detroit is in shambles. Again, this is the opposite of that. This is a Chinese company trying to gain entry into the North American market with a product that has done well throughout the world. If they were bringing their own labor force and using their own materials, I could also see your argument, but they are hiring Americans and buying/using American materials with Chinese money. It seems like you don’t want their money or their jobs simply because they are Chinese … or maybe they did just kick your dog and/or sleep with your wife.

  • Dan Rodman

    TIGGER Grant?

  • james

    Long Beach has no business buying electric buses when I cannot even provide decent transit service and still had not managed to hire a traffic engineer who understands what pedestrians are. The first thing they should do is hire Jarrett Walker as a consultant, come up with a decent transit map and put it in their website.

  • calwatch

    That is correct. TIGGER with two g’s is a greenhouse gas reduction program, while TIGER is the economic stimulus.

  • Erik Griswold

    “with a product that has done well throughout the world”

    Actually, I see alot of photo ops and contracts signed, but I don’t see these things in service anywhere except China. Can you cite any examples?

    AnsaldoBreda claimed they would bring “bags of money and jobs” too, but their track record showed the reality of that. At least they were going to hire Americans and did at their plant in Pittsburg, CA

  • Jac

    From april 2013 on, 6 12m buses from BYD are in service in the Netherlands. Very heavy, they can carry only 60 passengers.
    No driveline problems, but several minor problems. Doors will be changed shortly, All other BYD buses in Europe are demonstrators

  • Jac

    Every new worker on a BYD bus causes at least one lost job for an american worker, so what is the benefit?

  • American Jobs

    BYD is nothing more than a shell company operating in Lancaster. Shame on the public officials who keep promoting them. It will come back to bit them, I am sure of it. Shame on Long and Beach and LA too! I am disappointed that they did not consider an American company. BYD is not going to hire American Engineers when they can bring them to Lancaster from China and pay them a so called $12 dollar an hour salary. Advice to BYD: Stop hiring your big dollar lobbyists and lawyers and just be honest, you are a big joke and the American tax payer is not falling for your propaganda.

  • James

    @Chris

    The jobs BYD is “supposedly” bringing to California would be assembly line, low paying jobs. I would rather see Proterra buses on the streets of Cali, they are paying Americans good salaries to engineer and design their buses. That’s hundreds and hundreds of GOOD paying jobs for Americans plus the lower paying assembly jobs also. Now throw in the fact that the BYD bus has been completely unable to get federal certification at Altoona and they have been caught for labor violations……this company is bad news.

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