Following a business development mission to Shenzhen, China, California Governor Jerry Brown has announced that Build Your Dreams (BYD), a Chinese bus company, will open a factory in Lancaster,CA; the first Chinese-owned vehicle plant on American soil, according to the LA Times.
BYD says it will put 10 new plug-in buses on the streets of Long Beach beginning next year after assembling them in the Lancaster facility, with hopes of producing dozens more in coming years.
"It's very significant," said Brown on the last full day of his weeklong visit to China. "I think it's very important that we start replacing the bus fleet with electric buses."
The new buses, which BYD says can run up to 150 miles with a full passenger load on a single charge, will contain parts made mostly in China, where BYD already has hundreds of buses on the road.
Company officials say every vehicle produced in Lancaster will translate into just one California job, in addition to the 40 or so people the company currently employs at the downtown Los Angeles headquarters of BYD America.
Opening ceremonies at the Lancaster plant are set for May 1.
The Times report says that experienced foreign firms that have thrived with the help of subsidies in their home countries are increasingly looking for ways to tap into the billions of dollars of public money available in the U.S., much of which is in California.
With increasingly strict air-quality rules and plenty of government subsidies available, the potential market for electric buses is sizable. As existing fleets age and buses with diesel engines are scrapped, public transit agencies will be shopping for thousands of eco-friendly vehicles in the next few years.
Electric ones are projected to play a central role in the shift to cleaner vehicles. The governor said the plans by BYD, in which billionaire investor Warren Buffet has a 10% stake, could help bring other green-vehicle manufacturers to the state.
But, when Long Beach officials agreed last month to buy the 10 electric buses from BYD for $12 million, the announcement triggered fierce criticism from competitors who said U.S. taxpayer dollars should be spent with companies that are already building in the U.S.
A lawyer for one of BYD's rivals for the Long Beach business, South Carolina-based Proterra Inc., fired off a 16-page letter to the city's transit officials. BYD has "a history of overpromising and underdelivering," wrote Proterra's general counsel, Marc Gottschalk.
In 2011, when BYD announced its new Los Angeles-based office, funded with nearly $2 million in incentives from the city, it promised 150 employees in the downtown office by the end of the year. Today the company employs about 40 people.