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Spotlight: Chinese electric automaker BYD vows to push industry change
Last Updated: 2018-06-01 10:01 | Xinhua
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"BYD's mission is to change the world through technological innovation that reduces greenhouse gases and our dependency on fossil fuels," Stella Li, president of BYD Motors, a U.S.subsidiary of China's automaker BYD Company Ltd., told Xinhua this week.

Behind her, hundreds of American blue-collar workers were assembling electric buses and trucks for the country in a massive and cutting-edge manufacturing facility in Northern Los Angeles County, California.

In an email to about 900 employees, many in high-skilled, well-paid jobs, Li reiterated the mission in response to a recent LA Times article and called for them to strengthen their resolve in beating the fossil fuel industry.

According to the article, there were "extensive problems" with the city of Los Angeles's efforts to deploy electric buses from BYD (Build Your Dreams), and the company failed to meet expectations.

"The LA Times article was received well by undercover CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) advocates masquerading as advocates for clean air," said CleanTechnica, the No.1 cleantech-focused website in the United States.

Indeed, advocates for gas-powered transportation have already seized on the story, saying that the rush to electrification is the wrong way to go.

"I'm sure the gas company helped quietly feed the story ... It's an attack on the new energy industry," said an official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Todd Campbell, chairman of the Board of Directors at California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition whose Twitter handle is "CleanEnergyNGV," shared the Times story on Twitter the day it came out with the comment: "Talk about #WrongWayLA! We need to stop spending precious resources on buses that don't run."

The introduction of new technology does not always go smoothly. Looking back in time, the same trend of sensationalizing early problems with new technologies can be seen in the 1990s when buses went from diesel to ethanol or CNG.

In 1996, according to another LA Times article, Los Angeles transit officials pulled 120 gas-powered buses off the streets when the new CNG bus technology was going through its growing pains.

"BYD has lead the charge as a role model in pioneering the zero-emissions electric vehicle industry," Abas Goodarzi, president and CEO of U.S. Hybrid Corporation, said in a statement.

"As in any new industry, there will be growing pains, for operators just as much as manufacturers. BYD has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to their customers, delivering a sustainable and Zero Emission product that has the potential to change the world," said Goodarzi, noting U.S. Hybrid offers its full support to BYD and BYD's product line.

When BYD established its North American headquarters in Los Angeles in 2011, electric buses were very rare in the United States. However, about seven years later, the automaker has already invested 250 million U.S. dollars in its U.S. operations and sold more than 700 battery-electric buses and trucks in the United States and Canada.

"The biggest electric vehicle manufacturer in the world isn't Tesla, but the Chinese company BYD," said Fast Company, who named BYD as one of the world's most innovative companies in Energy in 2018.

Los Angeles has now committed to an all-electric fleet by 2030, and New York City by 2040. Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that 84 percent of all new buses sold in 2030 will be electric.

"It is undeniable that the future of public transit incorporates electric buses," said Li.

"We continue to grow as daily technological breakthroughs make our buses able to handle all kinds of challenging routes. The day is rapidly approaching, in fact, when electric vehicles will handle the majority of bus routes," said Li.

Days after the LA Times blame, BYD won "Award of Year" presented by the Select LA Investment Summit, an annual meeting held at the World Trade Center Los Angeles (WTCLA).

Before that, China's leading electric vehicle manufacturer has won more than a dozen awards and honors from environmental advocates, government agencies and major media outlets for its pioneering efforts to fundamentally change the world.

Kansas City International Airport said that it is proud to have been an early adopter of BYD buses. The airport said BYD has always worked to address issues that emerge and the buses have exceeded their expectations, "particularly in terms of their actual range."

"As with any new technology, there have been issues along the way. No technology is perfect and every new bus, regardless of the manufacturer, comes with its own challenges. That said, our experience has been very successful," said Kenneth Williams, superintendent of Motor Equipment Kansas City International Airport.

BYD's electric buses currently operate on Denver's iconic 16th street mall "and, as such, must be dependable, comfortable and attractive. Our fleet of BYD buses achieves all of those objectives," Steve Gieske, general superintendent of maintenance, Regional Transportation District (Denver, Colorado) said in a statement. "BYD has been a good partner and their buses are operating as promised."

"All transit vehicles, whether electric, CNG or diesel, have inevitable mechanical issues that emerge. What defines a good provider is the manner in which those issues are dealt with," said Gieske.

BYD has also created more than 800 well-paid union jobs for the local community.

"BYD is the only electric bus manufacturer with a workforce represented by a union, meaning workers will have a seat at the negotiating table around their wages, benefits, and working conditions," Luther Medina, President/Business Manager of SMART Local 105, said last year.

BYD, one of the world's largest manufacturers of electric vehicles, has committed to hire 40 percent of its workers from populations facing significant barriers to employment, such as veterans, women and African Americans.

"BYD has really saved my life ... Now I have a roof for my family, I have food for my family. And the future is definitely full of hope," Guillermo Garcia, who has been working for BYD's manufacturing facility in Lancaster, California since 2013, told Xinhua.

"Compared to years ago, it's a big change," said Garcia.

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