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Clean Transport

Published on September 17th, 2015 | by Steve Hanley


BYD Wins Huge Electric Bus Contract In Washington

September 17th, 2015 by  

Originally published on Gas2.

BYD Buses win Washington contract

Never heard of BYD? You’re not alone. The Chinese company is big in its home country but less well know elsewhere, especially in the United States. But Warren Buffett is a major stockholder and BYD has built more electric buses than any company in history. It also operates a fleet of electric crossovers in selected US cities as part of local carsharing services, including 200 in Chicago used by Uber drivers.

The Department of Transportation in Washington wrapped up a bid proposal for up to 800 electric buses in 12 different categories in August. BYD buses has been awarded the contract in 10 of those categories. The contract has the potential to be the biggest in US history, since it includes buses from 30 to 60 feet in length for both highway and intra-city applications, as well as long- and short-range on-route charging configurations.

According to Electric Cars Report, BYD is the only bus manufacturer with wireless on-route charging as an option approved by the Washington DOT. This is seen as a visionary move by the state of Washington State, one that clearly establishes it as one of the most environmentally conscious states in the nation. Any transit agency or public institution in Washington, as well as the state of Oregon, is now able to procure electric buses from the RFP, which will greatly simplify the procurement process.

BYD employs more than 15,000 R&D engineers. It has developed a proprietary iron-phosphate battery which boasts the only 12-year battery warranty in the industry. Combined with BYD’s own in-wheel hub motors and regenerative braking system, the BYD battery electric bus reportedly offers the lowest lifecycle cost of ownership. It is very quiet and ensures a comfortable ride without vibrations, jerks, or the noise associated with conventional buses and combustion engines. The bus can also drive for more than 155 miles even in heavy city traffic on a single charge.

As of April 1st, 2015, BYD bus fleets have completed more than 50 million miles of “in revenue service” and have been evaluated by more than 150 cities in 36 countries around the world.

Barcelona’s transit agency director told Gas2 director Zachary Shahan in 2013 that BYD electric buses seemed to have the same lifecycle cost of a conventional diesel bus… but without all of the health and climate problems.

Photo Credit: BYD

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About the Author

writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island. You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter. "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." Elie Wiesel

  • neroden

    I now have way more detail about what’s going on.

    BYD has NOT “won” this contract in the way in which the press release implies. Multiple companies were allowed to win each category.

    What’s going on is that Washington state has bids for a set of “master contracts” — they make a list of “approved vendors” for each type of bus, with each “approved vendor” having a pre-priced contract. This doesn’t entail ANY firm commitment to order ANY buses at all.

    From then on, *if* a local agency in Washington wants to buy a bus (including some agencies in Oregon who have signed on to the Washington state system) it is expected to buy a bus from one of the approved vendors using the approved “master contract”. If they want to use a non-approved vendor, they have to prove that the other vendor is cheaper and score better, *and* the approved vendors get a chance to underbid any other vendor.

    There are categories for several lengths of bus (ranging from 30 ft. to 60 ft.), in “plug-in electric”, and “en-route electric”. (I’m not sure what the differences in those categories were.)

    – BYD was sole approved vendor for 30 ft en-route, 35 ft en-route, and 60 ft en-route.
    – BYD, Proterra, and New Flyer were all approved for 40 ft en route.
    – BYD and GreenPower were approved for 30 ft plug-in, 35 ft plug-in, 45 ft plug-in, and 60 ft plug-in, as well as for the unusual 45 ft high floor category (all other categories are low-floor).
    – BYD, GreenPower, and Proterra were approved for 40 ft plug-in.
    – GreenPower was sole approved vendor for 45 ft plug-in.

    One suspects that New Flyer and Proterra only submitted bids for the 40 ft. categories.

  • Ronald Brakels

    Depending on the bus route, with a 250 kilometer range (155 miles) it may be able to operate continuously for over 12 hours. On the other hand, these buses might speed up bus transport, resulting in a higher average speed but lower continuous operating time.

    • JamesWimberley

      I don’t get this. Urban bus speed is constrained by the traffic, not by the performance of the bus. You don’t want flashy acceleration off the lughts. The quite numerous cities that have tested the BYD bus have not complained about performance. Warsaw found the range inadequate for some reason. For the rest, it’s the high price and fear of the unknown that have held up the big orders.

      • Ronald Brakels

        The BYD bus has better acceleration than the diesel and methane buses used locally. A bus with the same acceleration as current buses has its speed top out at maybe 76 kilometers an hour as it only needs a small electric motor to do so, while BYD buses have a top speed of 100 kilometers an hour. And it is gearless acceleration and thus smoother, so presumably they could engage in faster average acceleration without complaints from riders. Timetables, the presence of older, slower buses on the route, and other factors could result in new electric buses operating at the same speed as buses do now. But, where I am at least, they do clearly have the potential to speed up bus transport although the average difference may be small. Maybe they will average 21 kilometers an hour instead of say 20, reducing endurance by 5%.

        I’ll mention that according to NSW standards buses must be able to average a minimum of 12 kilometers an hour including stops. They also must be able to operate 18 hours a day or 450 kilometers a shift without refueling. I wonder if Volvo or someone slipped that last requirement in to keep electric buses out

        • Bob_Wallace

          Rapid acceleration/deceleration can be bitch if you’re standing or on your way to a seat. I’d like to see computer controlled acceleration/deceleration that was passenger friendly.

          I’ve never see a bus need rapid acceleration. If buses want to get back into traffic they just start sticking their noses into the flow. Very rarely would someone challenge something that large.

          “Smooth flow mode” – that’s what I want.

          • Ronald Brakels

            It’s the gear changes that seem to throw people about so the lack of gears in an electric bus would help.. But “automatic acceleration” should also be very useful for providing a smooth ride. Paticularly if it is linked to a camera that detects if people are standing or not. As for needing more rapid acceleration, I would say buses need it here. I can see traffic controllers in places such as Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane being vey happy with an increase in bus acceleration. The current solution to congestion is to build more roads and so I think we may be heading for a repeat of our electricity infrastructure overbuild.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Getting thrown around is directly connected to putting too heavy a foot on accelerator or brake.

            Can you imagine trying to stand up in a P85D when someone stomped on the accelerator?

          • Ronald Brakels

            In Australia the acceleration standard for a fully laden new bus is 0 to 60 kilometers per hour in 19 seconds. That’s 37.5 miles per hour. Because we’re all crazy speed demons in Australia we actually consider this to be a bit slow and look forward to the days when buses will manage a blistering acceleration of 0 to 60 kilometers an hour in 17 or even 15 seconds. And if that acceleration can be done smoothly without gear changes, all the better as we can aim our weapons out the windows at wasteland raiders much more effectively that way.

        • neroden

          I hope they get rid of that stupid range requirement.

          The duty cycle of your average city bus provides plenty of time for fast charging. See what Winnipeg is doing with its airport-downtown route running New Flyer battery electrics and charging during the layover at the end.

          The real advantage of electric buses in the city bus duty cycle is that they (a) use no energy idling, and (b) regain energy when slowing down. This saves so much money that I really think they’ll take over very fast in this market.

          School buses have a similar duty cycle but I find that the people who buy school buses in the US are know-nothings, so it may take longer over here. I hope the same is not true in Australia.

  • Mike333

    It’s good to see good government at work. If they can just get the diesel trucks off the road, they could turn their cities into Nirvana.

  • Kyle Field

    “The bus can also drive for more than 155 miles even in heavy city traffic on a single charge.”

    …heavy traffic is the easiest for EVs. They can far exceed their stated range in stop and go traffic. I have a newfound respect for BYD after talking with their rep about their utility scale battery installations in the US and their plans for what’s next for EVs (fleet EV trucks).

    • Ronald Brakels

      In Australia summer air conditioner use is likely to chew into range, but that just makes it a good idea to put PV on the roof.

    • I’m looking to invest in the company before its electric bus demand really jacks up. Don’t really see how it can’t. And then there are the cars…

      • Kyle Field

        Great plan and I agree. They are uniquely positioned for explosive growth in the next few years especially given their expertise in batteries and battery production capacity.

        • neroden

          Proterra could start winning the orders next year.

          Or New Flyer could.

          I don’t think it’s fair to say that BYD is *uniquely* positioned, though I think it’s *well* positioned.

          • Kyle Field

            Neither have wireless charging. Neither has a factory in southern california with a HUGE production capacity of batteries. Neither has years of experience in producing lithium iron phosphate batteries. Hmm…There’s more but I really do feel that BYD is uniquely positioned.

          • neroden

            (1) Wireless charging is an irrelevance.
            (2) The market size for buses is small enough that I don’t think vertical integration with the battery manufacturer is necessary — or even much of an advantage. Even Tesla wouldn’t have vertically integrated battery manufacturing if they didn’t *have to do so* due to using up over half the world supply of the type of batteries they use.
            (3) BYD’s battery chemistry is actually questionable and may prove to be a hindrance.

            Furthermore, BYD isn’t a pure-play — they do a LOT of other industrial stuff.

            Also, as I said, I finally found out about the Chinese market, and BYD has something like 10 competitors there.

            I’m indirectly invested in BYD though Berkshire Hathaway. They’re likely to do well in electric buses, but I don’t think they have a dominant position — they’ll have lots of strong competition.

          • Kyle Field

            1) Wireless charging acts as a range extender by allowing buses to opportunity charge at bus stops and depots which will extend their real life range. If they can add 50% capacity throughout a buses route, that’s HUGE.
            2) Vertical integration means they have capacity…they will have 10gwh of installed battery capacity by the end of this year and 16gw by the end of next year which gives them the capacity needed to scale. Not many others have this and if they do, they have to fight for it with other EV manufacturers. BYD controls this critical link in the chain – one less thing to worry about and to pay more for.
            3) BYD’s battery chemistry is rated at 13000 cycles and warrantied for 12 years in a bus! That’s far better than the industry and they are environmentally friendly and fully recyclable. Beyond that, they expect their batteries to last 35 years (What?!?) and are working on repurposing strategies that will allow them to move the batteries from the buses into grid scale batteries…providing further value to their customers.

            BYD has competitors. So does Tesla. However, their Qin alone has 20% of the market in China. They have several other models as well.

            I don’t have a penny in BYD today but plan to change this shortly based on my recent research. I’ll be posting more detailed explanations of these points in an article in the next day or two.

          • Jim Fox

            “(3) BYD’s battery chemistry is actually questionable and may prove to be a hindrance.” HOW SO?
            The only company offering a 12 year warranty on it’s batteries?

          • Jim Fox

            “lithium iron phosphate batteries”
            Where does lithium come into it? They are iron phosphate batteries…

          • Kyle Field
  • JamesWimberley

    This is IIRC only the second large contract (defined as more than 100 buses) that BYD or any electric bus maker has won outside China. The first was in Israel, an atypical country – compact and with its oil in the hands of its enemies.There have been plenty of trials of half-a-dozen BYD buses in Europe and the Americas, and London placed a respectable order for 51 – the entire single-decker fleet. (The majority are double-deckers, unusual on the world scene, and still at the trial stage for electrics.)

    The change could happen fast, and Buffett make good on his stake. It is in the nature of the business that bus operators want to standardise. They are slow to shift, but when they do, it will be on a large scale. The life of a bus is shorter than that of a car – I’ve heard eight years. The intense and mostly urban usage of a bus means that the cut in health-destroying air pollution is large.

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    • Mike333

      People are starting to do the Accounting of fuel savings, this is the amazing thing.

    • Yeah, I sat up quickly and heart started beating faster when I saw this news. As I just wrote, I’m looking to invest in the company before its electric bus demand really jacks up. Don’t really see how it can’t. And then there are the cars…

      • neroden

        This is not investment advice, just anecdotes, but:

        I invested in Tesla because its competitors have been extreme laggards, acting like they don’t really want to be in the business, taking years to learn lessons which Tesla knew years earlier.

        The electric bus market is not like that. I looked into it pretty carefully. Proterra is a solid competitor. BYD is a solid competitor. Within China, BYD has something like *10* competitors who are not trying to export outside China. Here in North America, New Flyer is a solid competitor. Volvo is the only “not trying seriously” company.

        This makes it a lot harder to invest. It’s more like solar panels: you *know* the technology is going to take over, but you don’t know *which company* is going to win.

    • neroden

      Note that this is misleading; this “win” doesn’t actually mean a firm contract. See my comment above.

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