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BYD's Global Transit Gambit

By EV World Editorial Staff

From the boroughs of New York to the streets of Bogota, Krakow and Tel Aviv, BYD's k9 electric transit bus is getting a serious workout with the clear aim of being the world's leading eBus supplier.

Outside of China, BYD, the multi-faceted, Shenzhen-based conglomerate, is largely associated with its electric and hybrid cars, principally the e6, a crossover vehicle mainly used by taxi fleets and the local police. Yes, the company makes cellphone batteries, its core business, and solar panels, along with supporting inverters, but at least half of its profits come from the sale of ICE-age automobiles, distinctly not in keeping with its green tech image.

In fact, at least one analyst who follows the company in which Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway has a small stake, estimates that when it comes to electric car sales, Tesla is likely to sell ten times as many Model S luxury sedans as BYD in 2013: 21,000 versus 2,100.

Its heavy reliance on gasoline cars and cellphone batteries, not withstanding, in keeping with its ‘Build Your Dream’ moniker, it is talking about gradually phasing out its gasoline car production over the next few years, while it ramps up its new Qin Hybrid and Denza electric car, built in partnership with Daimler.

But cars represent only a part of its ‘dream.’ When you look at the truly global scale of its electric bus marketing efforts, you start of realize that it is truly taking a long view on the future of transportation in a world where 70 percent of the population will live in cities and automobile ownership is more a burden than a necessity.

The current keystone of its public transportation initiative is its 12 meter (39 ft), 70 passenger transit bus, dubbed the k9 or eBus. At a gross vehicle weight of 39,700 lbs, it is 2,700 lbs. heavier than its American-made rival from Proterra.

Unlike the Greenville, S.C. company’s 35-ft bus, which has an estimated range of around 60 miles and relies on multi-fast charge sessions throughout the day, BYD claims its bus has a range per charge of 250 km (155 mi). In fact, that may be a conservative estimates as demonstrated in Poland this summer.

BYD has not been shy about sharing the k9 with as many global cities as it can convince to test drive it in temporary revenue service. The list is long and impressive: Barcelona, Brussels, Bonn, Budapest, Helsinki, Madrid, Milan, Montreal, New York City, Salzberg, Tel Aviv, Warsaw. Few have, at the moment, committed to purchase the $800,000US electric bus (diesel buses run $450K), but the company has racked up a few sales, the largest being a 35-unit order from Schiphol airport in the Netherlands to provide passenger transit services to and from arriving and departing flights that don’t have terminal gate access. Six of the buses are now in operation. Two of them are in service in Milan.

In China, four cities - Shenzhen, Changsha, Shaoguan, and Xian - have been operating the k9’s for at least a couple years and as of July 2013, have accumulated a total of 17 million kilometers of revenue service. K9’s are also now operating in Hong Kong.

BYD would like very much to repeat that success elsewhere. In the United States, it has won two important bus contracts, though not without controversy. Los Angeles plans to buy 25 eBuses, while Long Beach has placed a firm order for 10 and tacked onto the agreement the option of buy another 20. Opponents have launched a vigorous campaign to nullify the contracts over various issues from the bus not having completed testing at a government bus facility in Pennsylvania to the weight of the bus potentially damaging city streets. So far, the contracts still stand, although both LA and Long Beach have said they won’t take delivery until a US-built version out of the new BYD manufacturing plant in Lancaster, CA. passes its tests in Altoona.

Outside the USA, BYD is in discussions with counterparts in Bulgaria to build European versions there and it has announced future plans to place as many as 500 k9s in Uruguay. Bogota, Colombia will be incorporating them into its BRT fleet and the tiny island nation of Aruba also plans to replace its diesel buses with k9s. In the Middle East, BYD is engaged in discussions with the Jordanian government about promoting EV technology there, presumably including electric buses.

Finally, on the question of range, after completing its scheduled demonstration in Warsaw (inset photo above), BYD drove it to Krakow, a distance of 310 km (192 miles) on a single charge at an average speed of 34 mph and with no passengers aboard. When it arrived in Krakow, however, the battery still showed it had more than 30% capacity left in it. The company claims it takes just 130kWh of energy to travel 100 km or 1.3kWh per km. That’s about four times the energy of a typical electric car, but remember, we’re talking about moving as many as 70 people at a time versus around 20. And in petroleum fuel terms, that is equivalent to more than 16 mpg, 10 mpg better than your average diesel city bus.

See why BYD would appear to be on the right ‘street’ when it comes to meeting the transportation needs of the cities of the future?

Times Article Viewed: 38614
Originally published: 19 Sep 2013

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