$22 Million for Expansion to 450,000 Square Feet
As eBuses Near Price Parity with Competing AFVs,
IndyGo Orders as Many as 75 All-Battery 60-Footers
BYD, the busy builder of all-battery buses, has completed a $22 million expansion of its factory in Lancaster, Calif. – a former RV plant that’s expected to soon employ more than 600 people, able to produce some 1,500 buses annually.
That capacity will be needed in coming years, says a top executive, as the cost of an all-battery bus approaches that of other alternative fuel buses, such as those fueled by CNG/compressed natural gas.
BYD has meanwhile notched its largest U.S. order to date for its all-battery articulated buses – 75 (including options) 60-foot vehicles for the Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation’s new bus rapid transit line. The IndyGo Red Line is to be the nation’s first all-electric BRT operation.
Grand Opening Next Week
BYD’s Phase 3 at Lancaster has seen expansion from 250,000 to 450,000 square feet (at a facility that employed just 35 three years ago). A formal grand opening has been scheduled for October 6.
BYD builds lithium battery modules and packs and BMS/battery management systems there, as well as fully battery-electric buses and trucks, and forklifts. More than two dozen engineers are employed for R&D.
Including options, BYD has logged the following double-digit U.S. battery bus orders:
- AVTA/Antelope Valley Transit Authority – 85 mixed vehicles (F&F, February 12, 2016);
- IndyGo – 75 sixty-footers;
- LA Metro – 60 forty-footers (F&F, July 31);
- Albuquerque – 20 sixty-footers (F&F, August 11); and
- UC Irvine – 20 forty-footers (F&F, January 23).
Whereas all-battery buses were previously seen as a prohibitively expensive luxury, “Virtually every single property we talk to right now has some level of interest,” says BYD sales VP Macy Neshati.
That’s because vehicle prices have dropped from
- more than $1 million for a 40-foot battery bus prior to 2014, and
- approximately $1 million in 2015, to
- about $800,000 last year, and
- $650,000 to $750,000 today,
Neshati says. He pegs the cost of a CNG bus at $525,000 to $550,000. Given fuel and especially maintenance cost savings, he told F&F, the capital investment delta can be made up in about two years.
“The next ten years you’re in positive territory,” he says.
“We’re moving very quickly toward equilibrium.”
BYD has grown the plant in Lancaster with the employee in mind, Neshati says, mentioning the Antelope Valley’s hot summers and chilly wet winters. In addition to a robust HVAC system, there is a gym for employees and two cafeterias.
It’s “a first-class facility,” he says. “We’ve really gone to extremes to make sure that this is a facility that people want to work at.”
And while capacity of 1,500 battery buses per annum might seem like overkill for the North American market, Neshati sees 750 BYD battery buses as a real possibility for 2018. “We’ve got the property,” he says. “Why go through this again?”
“We definitely are very bullish on the American market.”
Shenzhen, China-headquartered BYD expects to produce 14,000 electric buses this year – four times the tally, says Neshati, of the entire U.S. transit market. For BYD, the expansion in Lancaster is the point of a wedge.
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Source: Fleets & Fuels interview and follow-up