A Chinese automaker backed by billionare Warren Buffett is getting ready to ramp up production of its electric buses.
BYD, which stands for Build Your Dreams, opened its manufacturing facility in 2013 in northern Los Angeles. Since then, the facility has produced the company’s battery-powered buses and, more recently, electric trucks.
On Friday, BYD unveiled the factory’s new 450,000 square-foot expansion that will allow the company to build 1,500 electric buses annually. BYD will use the expansion to expand further into its new product lines, like electric forklifts and garbage trucks.
Stella Li, president of BYD, said the expansion will allow BYD to deliver 300 buses by mid-2018. The company has so far delivered more than 130 electric buses to 40 customers in North America, like Denver’s Regional Transportation District and the Los Angeles Metro.
The expansion will also add “hundreds” of jobs to the facility that currently employs 700 people.
“We are the player to push the industry to the future of zero-emission public transportation,” Li said in an interview.
BYD currently sells 10 different bus models, including a new 60-foot bus with 275 miles of range.
BYD’s products compete most closely with Proterra, a Silicon Valley-based electric bus startup that sells a 40-foot bus with a 375-mile range. Proterra recently set a 1,000-mile range record for the Calayst E2 bus.
The Chinese company could also serve as a threat to Tesla, which will unveil its electric big-rig truck in late October. BYD sold 100,000 electric vehicles in 2016 while Tesla sold 76,000 cars.
Li said she sees Proterra and Tesla more as partners because they are helping encourage electric vehicle adoption across the US. She also noted that Tesla and BYD compete in very different markets in the US and it remains to be seen whether the company’s electric truck can compete with BYD’s offerings on price.
“If you want to make an industry change, only one company cannot do that,” she said in an interview. “We need all of the companies.”
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