In less than a decade, Chinese manufacturer BYD has grown to become the largest battery-electric bus manufacturer in North America.
The company’s California plant is located in Lancaster, at the northern edge of Los Angeles County. Since buying the 106,000-square-foot vacant building that once housed a motorhome manufacturing facility in 2013, it has expanded the facility to over a half-million square feet — about the size of nine American football fields.
BYD, which stands for Build Your Dreams, is the first pure electric vehicle manufacturer in the United States to have an all-union workforce and a pioneering community benefits agreement (CBA). The company says its CBA reinforces its commitment to creating pathways to good manufacturing jobs for underrepresented and underserved populations in L.A. County.
The workforce of roughly 500 unionized workers assemble battery packs and weld frames, and install seats, steering wheels and fare boxes, making zero-emission public transportation.
While BYD’s parent is traded in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, the company says 60% of its stock is owned by U.S. investors. U.S. business magnate Warren Buffett owns an 8.2% stake, the company said.
Among the company’s clients is Antelope Valley Transit Authority (ATVA), which become the first all-electric, zero-emissions transit agency in North America. Los Angeles Department of Transportation made history in 2020, with an order of 130 of its battery-electric BYRD’s K7M buses, making it the largest single order of battery-electric buses to date in the U.S.
The project aligns with the City of Los Angeles’ “Green New Deal,” a set of sustainability goals that include converting the entire LADOT fleet to zero-emission buses by 2030. Los Angeles plans to switch every city vehicle to zero-emission technology by 2050.
The 130 buses are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8,225 metric tons per year and by 98,700 metric tons over the buses’ 12-year life, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 81% compared to LADOT’s compressed natural gas buses.
The 30-foot K7M has 22 seats, a range of up to 150 miles, and can be charged in 2.5 to 3 hours. One of BYD’s best-selling buses, the K7M has no air emissions and runs quietly, improving quality of life wherever it operates. With lower fuel and maintenance costs, the K7M has lower total cost of ownership than diesel or CNG. BYD offers a 12-year warranty on its batteries, the longest in the industry.
The Lancaster location helps BYD exceed Federal Transit Administration “Buy America” requirements, which requires incorporating more than 70% U.S. content.
BYD also likes to point out that it’s the only battery-electric bus manufacturer that has both a unionized workforce and a Community Benefits Agreement, which sets goals for hiring veterans, single parents, second chance citizens, and others facing hurdles in obtaining manufacturing employment.
LADOT has been working with BYD since 2014 when it conducted a 90-day trial of a battery-electric bus. In January 2017, city officials introduced the first of four K9S battery-electric buses acquired by the LADOT with a grant from the California Energy Commission.
“We applauded LADOT for its bold leadership, ambition, and desire to improve the air quality for the City of Los Angeles,” said BYD North America President Stella Li at the time. “BYD buses will be an important component of the city’s efforts to meet its sustainability goals. We are proud to partner with an agency that shares our green dream.”