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EDF Climate Corps Fellows Unearth Energy Savings For BYD

BYD has partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Climate Corps program to bring external experts in-house to solve some of the wicked problems they were facing. The partnership quickly bore fruit as a record eight EDF Climate Corps fellows began to work at BYD locations around the world to help them track and optimize their energy use.

BYD Electric Trucks at its Lancaster, California factory. Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

BYD Electric Trucks at its Lancaster, California factory. Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

By Kyle Field

For several years running, BYD has sold more plug-in vehicles than any other company in the world, including Tesla. Sales of their electric buses and trucks are taking off around the world, but the real work is happening back at BYD’s home in Shenzhen, China, where BYD has partnered to replace more than 16,000 of the transit buses and more than 99% of their taxis with its fully electric alternatives.

As a leader in not only plug-in vehicles, but also in stationary energy storage, and grid scale solar, BYD is always looking for ways to build more batteries and vehicles with a lower carbon footprint. To achieve its goals, BYD reached out to the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Climate Corps program to bring external experts in-house to solve some of the wicked problems they were facing.

The partnership quickly bore fruit as a record eight EDF Climate Corps fellows began to work at BYD locations around the world to help them track and optimize their energy use.

Local Challenges, Global Opportunities

EDF Climate Fellow Abdullah Alsulaiman at BYD’s Lancaster Factory. Image courtesy: EDF

As a global company with more than 240,000 employees working in facilities totaling more than 18 million m2 | 194  million ft2 of building space, the potential for energy savings were immense. BYD’s scale is such that solutions developed at any given BYD location had the potential to be standardized and replicated at other BYD facilities with much less effort, amplifying the savings potential.

The new EDF Climate Corps fellows were split up amongst BYD’s various facilities, with six Chinese graduate students being place at BYD plants in Shenzhen and Huizhou and two U.S. graduate students finding a home at BYD’s ever-expanding Bus and Coach facility in Lancaster, California.

Finding and developing creative ways to reduce the energy usage in manufacturing plants can be at the same time a daunting task and a massive opportunity. The complexity of manufacturing requires a base level of understanding of the specific business and the equipment being used at the specific facility. For longer-term employees, a level of understanding is built over time, but the EDF Climate Corps fellows had to quickly get up to speed on their specific area of focus in the factory before being able to identify and roll out improvements.

On the other hand, many of the fundamental building blocks that comprise modern factories are the same across industries, in any plant utilizing modern manufacturing equipment. Motors, gearboxes, controls systems, and compressed air, the similarities are all there, once you understand what’s actually making the lines move and keeping parts moving seamlessly around the factory.

Actionable Insights

In Shenzhen, China, the fellows dug into BYD’s manufacturing equipment to determine where the largest energy savings opportunities were. They assembled a list of the equipment in the factory and began filling in relevant details needed to assess the energy savings potential. Cooling quickly became a factor as well, as the energy used to keep operating areas comfortable for workers requires a significant amount of energy to maintain.

EDF Climate Corps fellow Hao Lyu. Image courtesy: EDF

EDF Climate Corps Fellows Hao Lyu, Jiamin Wang, Zhu Wang, from left to right. Image courtesy: EDF

Their lists were triaged based on the size of the opportunity, the cost of the upgrades required, and the resulting reductions in order to create an actionable list. Each of the fellows was then tasked with making a case for their energy reduction projects to facility managers for consideration. For projects to make sense to execute, they must not only reduce the energy usage, they also have to be financially sustainable. In Shenzhen alone, EDF’s fellows identified savings of 670,000 kilowatt-hours and a reduction of 350 metric tons of CO2.


EDF Climate Fellow Sophie Tyack at BYD’s Lancaster Factory. Image courtesy: EDF

Across the Pacific at BYD’s Lancaster, California factory in the United States, the two fellows sought to contain the energy costs of the newly expanded facility. BYD recently tripled the size of the factory in advance of the wave of sales of its electric buses and trucks to North American customers. The new facility allowed for more room to build the buses and trucks BYD has come to be known for, but as the largest electric bus factory in North America, it came with an equally large energy footprint. Being located in the high desert outside of Los Angeles where summer temperatures regularly top 120 degrees F | 49 degrees C only exacerbated the issue, with air conditioning causing a spike in the overall energy usage at the facility.

An analysis of the energy use at the site by the fellows led them to focus in on the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system at the site to squeeze out some energy savings. They devised a system that added timers to the HVAC system to ensure that it only operated when it was needed.

The pair also developed a proposal to add a solar installation that, after both phases of the installation were complete, would be capable of producing all of the energy used by the facility. The one-two punch of working to reduce the energy density of a facility, then offsetting the remaining energy usage with an on-site solar installation is a great example of how there are many ways to reduce emissions, even at manufacturing facilities.

Together, the energy reduction and solar generation projects identified by EDF’s fellows at BYD’s Lancaster factory would save 5.8 Megawatt-hours of electricity, 20,000 therms of natural gas and eliminate 2,600 metric tons of CO2 from the facility’s footprint. Looking beyond the emissions, the projects identified would save $3.2 million over their lifetimes.

The Story Continues

The first round of EDF Climate Corps fellows that worked at BYD in the summer of 2018 have moved on and another class of students is scheduled for the summer of 2019. Much like those who came before them, these six fellows aspire to bring their unique skill sets and passions to bear on some of the wicked challenges facing BYD in a push to make their manufacturing operations around the world more sustainable and lower cost.

“Partnering with EDF Climate Corps enabled BYD to consider operational improvements that could drive down energy use and reduce carbon emissions while continuing to produce environmentally friendly products like our battery electric buses, trucks, forklifts and SkyRail,” BYD Motors President Stella Li said.

To learn more about the work they are doing, head to EDF’s Climate Corps website.

This post was supported by EDF

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