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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