LA Metro Chooses Electric Buses From Chinese Company BYD

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You might think that the 25 electric buses to be purchased by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority would be roundly applauded.

That's not necessarily the case.

LA Metro announced yesterday afternoon that it would spend $30 million to buy up to 25 of the battery-electric buses made by BYD Motors.

They'll be the region's first zero-emission buses, and they'll be put into "revenue service" as part of a pilot project to evaluate how well electric buses meet the transit agency's demands.

Metro will start with five of the 40-foot-long buses, and test them. If they perform well, it can then choose to buy up to 20 more.

The BYD buses have lithium-ion battery packs, with cells using BYD's own iron-phosphate chemistry, that are projected to provide 155 miles of range with a full load of passengers.

So far, BYD has built more than 1,000 of the buses, which are used in several cities in China.

But as LA Streetsblog and other outlets pointed out two weeks ago in an editorial, the choice of BYD--a Chinese company--over Proterra, a U.S. company, has been controversial.

And it was similarly controversial back in March, when the California city of Long Beach became the first to opt for BYD electric buses.

BYD says its proposal to La Metro received the highest ratings for technical compliance, project management and past performance.

But critics note that it has repeatedly made and broken promises to set up operations in Los Angeles, to get its E6 electric crossover vehicle certified for sale in the U.S., and to put that car on sale.

The Long Beach Post reported on many of these failures, along with allegations that BYD may not have been entirely truthful in some of its statements about other U.S. cities testing and operating its buses.

Losing bidder Proterra, based in South Carolina, has had its electric bus tested in Altoona, Illinois, at the national proving ground where buses are certified by the U.S. government as safe to operate.

BYD has not.

In the end, LA Metro is proceeding cautiously with its electric-bus tests. Five buses should provide data to determine whether or not BYD's claims for safety and performance are valid.

What do you think of LA Metro's decision?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (29)
  1. The Long Beach and Foothill districts are part of the region. Wouldn't that make one or both the first in the region?

  2. i personally know someone that was part of the decision making panel for the long beach decision.

    and i think they made the right decision.

    one of the main complaints about proterra is that system requires an overhead charging system, as opposed to a rechargeable system.

    go to the proterra site, and see for yourself how the bus is charged.

    proterra is almost arrogantly unwilling to make changes to this, which is obvioulsy the wrong way to go.

    as i stated earlier, this is a capitalistic economy, where the better ideas win out.

    if american companies want business, they had better deserve it.

  3. I believe I saw a video on Jay Leno's Garage show about Proterra buses being used in Pomona under Foothill's authority. I'm guessing Foothill had some experiences to share with LA Metro. Why is overhead charging considered a negative? Because of structure modifications?

  4. not just modifications. you have to build the structure. there are permit issues. liability issues. residential complaints.

    with byd, long beach simply charges their buses at their yard. and then they last all day.

    when they get to the point of having lots of electric buses, they are gonna have their own charging plant, instead of using edison.

    there were a few other issues between the 2 companies, but by far and away, the recharging issue was the biggest.

  5. "Better" ideas don't necessarily win. Just ask "Better" Place.

  6. the only thing better about better place was its name. the need for it was never there.

    the ev industry will evolve along the concept of just where it is, now - individual cars being charged almost exclusively at home.

    battery improvement will continue to make all these other ideas worse and worse as time goes on.

  7. Tell that to Tesla and their 90 second battery swap.
    You are aware that better batteries are only 1/2 the equation, right?
    How many 2 megawatt fast chargers can the grid handle? Because that's what you need to charge batteries at the same rate as a fill-up at the gas pump.

  8. BP spending 830,000,000 dollars to sell or lease 50 of someone else' cars was not sustainable.

    Tesla has executed far better than better place. By selling 15,000 of their own cars, before introducing, (in a single prototype example at their Hawthorne, California design center) their battery swap station, Tesla is revealing a far more viable idea than BP.

    Fast charging and battery swaps will work to overcome the psychological barrier of range anxiety, while for all practical purposes, 99% of charging IMO, could occur at home. And, or at work, for commuters with on-street parking or in multi-family dwellings.

  9. EV Enthusiast says: "the ev industry will evolve along the concept of just where it is, now - individual cars being charged almost exclusively at home."

    Exactly right.

    I believe that in the future:
    1) The vast majority of gasoline will be replaced with electricity.
    2) Long distance travel via air, land, and sea will be power mostly with biofuels.

    As battery technology improves, we'll see range extended EVs with 100 miles of all-electric range. The range extenders will run on sustainable biofuels. No need to fast charging or battery swapping.

  10. Since cars usually charge during off-peak hours, you'd have to have a 40% electric car fleet in ALL OF AMERICA in order to have just one more power plant. Fast chargers, although draw a lot of energy, does not represent what the majority of Americans would use if there were to be a shift in energy for transportation. In other words, your argument and hypothetical is both incorrect and misleading. Try taking a deep breathe and churning things over a little longer before you make comments. Unless you want to jump to illogical inferences and mislead.

  11. Better place was badly managed. They needed to recognize that home/work/store charging would be a primary mode. 80% of all people charge at home, 40% recharge at work, 20% charge while shopping.
    Only 10% need the battery swap, that's either people going long distance or taxi operators. if BP had worked to get an electric taxi fleet in and a couple of key routes, and made sure that the big manufacturers would be compatible to battery swapping.

    without that, they had no market.

  12. I think that their deal with Renault wasn't broad or deep enough. They needed access to the full EV range and for all the autos to be swap-capable.
    If Better Place were able to sell the Zoe and the Kangoo as well, they might still have a chance. I'm not sure how much effort they put into courting company fleets and taxis but that is a more reliable customer base in the short term than consumers and it's where they needed a product like the Kangoo.

  13. I don't expect a city bus to be a speed demon but 0-50 km/h in 20 seconds?? Seems a bit slow. And it's 3-6 hours for a recharge of these BYDs
    The Proterra system may be slightly unconventional but it recharges in about 10 minutes.

  14. These buses can be modified to go faster or be more economical. The buses capacity and speed was within the contract specifications. 150 per charge is usually enough for a shift for city driving. Most bus itineraries are just stop-and-go driving. Plus, I don't know about you, but buses that go too quickly actually seem to cause some discomfort because the momentum moves people around too much; especially with no seat belts.

  15. The only possible downside I see to recharging with Proterra's overhead system would be if vehicles that are too tall try to drive under the over the street portion of the charger and damage it.

    Other than that, sure LA is okay to spend money how they choose. If everyone does that, then our entire country will be equivalent to a third {or fourth} world country with its abundance of hopeless poverty much quicker.

    To take an untested Chinese item over a certified American item and export $30 million more to the country that is stealing from us {you are aware of the "hacking" they are doing to steal our military and trade secrets} makes no good sense unless you are an elected official and despise the people you are supposed to represent.

  16. actually, proterra is the newcomer in the business

  17. $30 million for up to 25 buses so these buses cost at least $1.2 million a pop? I doubt it.

  18. i could see it.

    training, spares, etc. chargers could easily add up to that.

  19. That's a lot of additional cost. The highest price for the bus it self I could find on the web is $650K, which is still a lot more than I expected BTW. Other sources report prices ranging from $300-500K.

  20. Zero-emission buses will play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in California, including battery electric buses and hydrogen fuel cell buses. My organization, the California Fuel Cell Partnership, has developed a road map for bringing more hydrogen-powered buses to California. Fifteen H2 buses are already in operation in California (Bay Area and Coachella Valley). One more bus will soon go into daily service in Burbank. The road map report can be found at

  21. I just want to clarify that a bus only needs to be certified at Altoona (which can take about a year) in order to be funded by a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant unless it is an experimental vehicle.

    I've been on a BYD bus in San Francisco while it was demonstrating its capabilities after a demonstration in Los Angeles. Everyone on the bus wanted to go up a hill to see how well it would handle, but the BYD officials (in their best English) said that they tried to go up a hill in Los Angeles and the bus struggled.

    The engineer on the bus also said that the company was working on putting the batteries on the underside of the bus, which has not happened. There were other promises I have not seen become reality on the product, yet!

  22. instead of whining to the media about long beach choosing a non-american company, they need to get off their high horses, and get rid of the overhead charging.

    no other city is gonna go for that, when they can recharge the bus on their yard, and then send it out for the day.

    as i already stated, the proterra system currently needs structures built, permitted, etc.

    i was told that the 10 buses will be running strictly in downtown long beach, where there are more passengers and many more stops per mile.

    i find this good, in the sense of people becoming familiar with evs.

    i think the bus system will help the car system roll down the mountain more quickly.

  23. What about will be costly investment, but the return could be great

  24. here is a link for streetcars in long beach. is this what you are referring to ?

  25. Yeah! LA drops 30 mil into China, and I'm supposed to buy American. B.S !

  26. What is the energy capacity of the battery in kilowatt hours?

    What is the power of the motor in horsepower or kilowatts?

  27. the main thing here is that we, as consumers, need to buy based upon the quality of the product.

    this is what forces the manufacturing industry to make quality products.

    the overhead charging is a tremendous amount of extra junk that is not needed, etc.

    by losing sales, proterra will be forced to make some redesigns, such that they can compete with byd and anyone else that comes along.

    vehicles will be charged at home, where it is the cheapest - whether that be a personal residence, or a place of industry.

    the only non-home charging will be done by truckers and vacationers. and even that could disappear if the batteries start approaching 1000 miles or so.

    when solar roadways start happening, we will recharge as we drive.

  28. Let the best technology win. Hopefully that will force an American company to improve their quality of products. Competition is good.

  29. I have had a quick shufti at Proterra's site and it seems an eminently sensible solution to the problem.

    I am assuming that these overhead chargers will be few and far between and if they are at long "stop" sites I can imagine that most would be in Lay-bys or mini termini.

    Given BYDs form on broken promises (Warren Buffet is not always correct) I am at a loss why a large municipal authority would choose them. Rash is probably the best description.

    Proterra probably suffers from the perennial problem of tech startups, sub standard sales and marketing and lack of capital. BYD has all of that in spades.

    Lets hope that LA made the right decision but I have an nasty feeling they have "dropped a bollock" as we say in dear old Blighty.

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