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Deal Puts BYD in Driver’s Seat for Fleet Sales

Early this month, BYD Motors Inc. announced a collaboration with a new San Diego-based joint venture, Levo Mobility, to integrate vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology into 5,000 vehicles over the next five years. 

The V2G technology will allow an electric vehicle to put energy back into the grid when it’s not being driven yet still have power when needed on the road.

Frank Girardot, director of communications for BYD Motors, called the deal a game changer for the EV market.  

“With the V2G technology there is no better description than that,” Girardot said. “I don’t think any electric vehicle company in the world has put together a deal as extensive as this.”

BYD Motors, in Los Angeles, is the U.S. subsidiary of Chinese electric vehicle and battery manufacturer BYD Co. Ltd. Its Lancaster facility opened in 2013 and now employs between 500 and 600 workers turning out electric powered transit buses and coaches, heavy duty trucks and, in the coming year, school buses.

Levo was formed in August by Nuuve Holding Corp., a San Diego company that developed the V2G technology, affiliates of Stonepeak Partners, a New York alternative investment firm, and Evolve Transition Infrastructure, a Houston energy company that Stonepeak has invested in. 

BYD Motors President Stella Li said the collaboration between her company and Levo has the potential to accelerate and transform the transportation sector at a critical time.

“This innovative potential partnership leverages BYD and Nuvve technologies and will provide access to Stonepeak’s financing, which will lower the cost of medium- and heavy-duty battery electric vehicle adoption for fleets of all types including mass transit, municipalities, last mile delivery and school districts,” Li said in a statement.

Take the example of a school bus, Girardot said.

The bus can take the children to and from school but during the day has potential energy within it to be used to power classrooms and administration offices. 

“You multiply that by how many buses you have at a school or in a school district or in city, county or a state and pretty soon you are feeding a lot of power back into the grid,” he said. “It’s not power that is lost or wasted.”

For the school bus market, EVs have particular appeal because of the health advantages with clean energy. In neighborhoods where children take diesel-powered buses, they can come down with childhood asthma and other respiratory illnesses from the particulate matter those buses spew into the air, Girardot explained. 

Those can be costly to society as a whole as they will weigh down the health care system as well as the school system, Girardot said. 

“So if you remove those pollutants from the atmosphere and give the kids something in their neighborhood that’s clean, efficient and quiet and then at the other end feeding power back into the school, that’s transformative, and yes, game changing,” he added.

The 5,000 vehicles that Levo plans to buy can be any one of the models produced in Lancaster.

“It could be our transit buses, our transit coaches, it could be the yard tractors, it could be the refuse trucks or drayage trucks,” Girardot continued. “It could be the vehicles we use for last-mile delivery, or it could be the school buses. Or any combination of all those.” 

Levo’s comprehensive offering streamlines electrification by providing fleet owners and operators with a solution that includes electric vehicles, maintenance, site planning and associated charging infrastructure and energy management powered by Nuvve.  These services are provided to customers for a fixed monthly payment with no upfront cost, the company said in a release. 

Gregory Poilasne, chief executive of Nuuve and chairman of Levo, said that its collaboration with BYD continues the momentum of transportation electrification that Nuuve is passionate about.

“By integrating our V2G platform with a variety of medium- and heavy-duty electric fleets, we can introduce these vehicles to the grid in a much more intelligent and sustainable way, help integrate more renewable energy sources, and ultimately accelerate the reduction of harmful CO2 emissions,” Poilasne said in a statement.

“This is the cusp of the future here,” Girardot added, “and we are doing it in Lancaster.” 

– Mark R. Madler

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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