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)

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