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Monday, May 16, 2022

Chinese Plant Assembles Buses One Piece at a Time

The BYD Motors Inc. electric bus assembly plant in Lancaster that was heralded last week by Gov. Jerry Brown and local officials is moving slowly at present – but when the orders start coming in, the Chinese company will be ready. The 60 employees can turn out a 60-seat bus in two days with the potential to produce 60 buses this year alone if demand calls for it. BYD has plans for a workforce of 100 by the end of the year, and 200 workers by the end of 2015. These workers occupy a building on 10 acres on the north edge of Lancaster that once produced recreational vehicles. The open work environment suits well the production of the 40-foot buses that are the first-ever made by BYD in the United States. When BYD fills up the 120,000-square-foot building at Seventh Street West, there is room to grow. “We have (14 acres of) land right next to us so we are ready to expand,” said Micheal Austin, a vice president with BYD and the company’s first hire in the U.S. BYD Motors, a division of BYD Co. Ltd., based in Shenzhen, opened the bus assembly plant and a battery pack assembly facility in a separate 8,000-square-foot building in Lancaster a year ago. The company has made two buses for the Antelope Valley Transit Authority that were completed in late April and contracted to produce up to 25 buses for Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro. Materials used in making the buses are all sourced from the U.S. except for the steel chassis shipped in from China. Down the road, however, BYD may source the chassis from an American supplier, Austin said. The low-volume production of the buses requires a manual rather than automated manufacturing process. Workers weld together the aluminum frame that is then attached to the chassis. The use of two different types of metals calls for a separator to keep the aluminum and steel from touching so as not to accelerate rusting or oxidization, Austin said. “We then use special rivets that are non-conductive,” he added. The bus frame is then rolled to the next stage where rough edges get sanded down and the aluminum skin is attached. The vehicle then goes into a primer booth where it gets sprayed with a corrosion-resistant coat and base coat. The windows are installed next. BYD buses carry three battery packs capable of a 24-hour charge that allows for a range of 155 miles. After installing the wheels, seats, lights, and other interior items, and final painting the bus undergoes testing of its brakes and batteries before shipment to its customer. The completion of the first two buses made in Lancaster was marked by a ceremony on April 28 featuring representatives from BYD, Lancaster, and Los Angeles County who were joined by Brown. The innovation shown by BYD with its electric buses follows in the footsteps of manufacturers who built the airplanes and ships that won World War II, Brown said. “I’d like to see the same energy that secured peace in the Pacific do the same thing with energy independence,” he told an audience of about 150 people. Railcar Factory Lancaster isn’t the only city in the Antelope Valley landing an Asian transportation manufacturer. Neighboring Palmdale was one step closer to approval of Japanese railcar manufacturer Kinkisharyo International LCC taking space in two buildings owned by Los Angeles World Airports to make light railcars for Metro. The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners voted April 21 to recommend the lease between LAWA and Kinkisharyo receive final approval by the Los Angeles City Council. No date has been set for the council’s vote. Kinkisharyo is on or ahead of schedule to produce a test car for Metro and with its hiring goals. About two dozen people for supervisor roles have already done several months of training in Osaka in preparation to get the Palmdale factory up and running, said Coby King, a spokesman for the company. The pilot car is scheduled to be delivered by Oct. 19, King said, adding “soon after that they expect to start assembling cars.” The lease covers 250,000 square feet in two buildings and Kinkisharyo, the U.S. arm of Kinki Sharyo Co. Ltd. of Osaka, will pay $4.6 million in rent for the initial five years, with an option for an additional five years The Metro job includes an initial contract for 78 light rail vehicles and four options to buy another 157 light railcars. The total contract value for 235 new railcars would be $890 million. The cars would operate on the Blue, Gold and Expo lines and a planned extension of the Expo line to Los Angeles International Airport. The contract is the first the Japanese company has had with Metro. It has supplied railcars in Dallas, Phoenix and other U.S. cities. Staff Reporter Mark R. Madler can be reached at (818) 316-3126 or mmadler@sfvbj.com.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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