Stella Li, the President of Chinese clean energy and electric vehicle titan BYD, recently sat down with CNBC to talk about the company’s progress to date in American markets as well as what the company has planned for the next few years.
BYD first came to the US when it opened its Los Angeles headquarters in 2011 with just 10 BYD employees. The team then established a manufacturing foothold in the Americas with the procurement of the Lancaster, California, BYD Bus and Coach Factory. BYD brings its battery cells into California, and then they are assembled into battery modules in the adjacent battery module assembly plant.
Those batteries represent the backbone of BYD’s plans for its Lancaster facility as the foundation for its existing electric bus production as well as the electric trucks and forklifts that BYD started producing in Lancaster late last year. “Phase 3” of the expansion of the Lancaster facility wraps up next month and will bring the total size of the facility to a staggering 450,000 square feet and makes it the largest single building in Lancaster. The increase in size has allowed BYD to increase its total staff to 700. They can churn out an impressive 1,500 electric buses per year.
Stella Li noted that BYD sees potential to further increase staffing and output as the company pushes to realize its goals for electrified vehicle sales and production out of the facility. That could mean upwards of 1,400 employees and a much higher vehicle production capacity moving forward.
Many decry BYD’s success in the area as a local phenomenon, but the company has already broken down that barrier, as evidenced by its broad customer base. Indeed, the largest customer of the Lancaster plant is several states away in Denver, Colorado, with others spread across the country.
Similarly to their geographical distribution, BYD has made inroads with customers in both the public and private sectors. The recent contract for 60 buses with Los Angeles Metro is an example of both the opportunity to partner with public agencies as well as a massive potential to scale up production as transit authorities are compelled by air quality standards and tighter financials to move to electric transit solutions.