Chinese carmaker BYD to build electric buses in California

BYD K9 electric busIf BYD (Build Your Dreams) has its way, the first Chinese vehicle Americans ride in could be an electric bus. BYD recently announced plans to build an assembly plant in California for its K9 electric bus; it would be the company’s first overseas factory.

The China Daily reports that the assembly plant will open sometime in 2013. At a meeting in Los Angeles Li Ke, BYD’s senior vice president, said a location will be announced in March or April.

Li said BYD’s goal is to open the plant in 2013, build 50 to 100 buses in 2014, and build at least 500 buses per year from 2015 on.

Although Californians will be putting the buses together, many if not all of the parts will be imported from China.

The K9 electric bus can travel 155 miles on a single charge, and takes three to six hours to recharge, depending on which of BYD’s two chargers is used.

The K9 uses an iron-phosphate “Fe” battery pack instead of the lithium-ion type found in most EVs and hybrids, and it has in-wheel electric motors. The electric bus recently finished road testing in China, and is expected to cost $550,000 to $600,000.

BYD already has a small presence in the United States. The company opened a U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles in October 2011, and has collaborated with rental car giant Hertz on electric airport shuttle buses and electric rental cars.

Hertz began testing an eBUS-12, with the same 155-mile range as the K9, at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in late 2011. Earlier this year, Hertz announced plans to bring the BYD E6 EV, already in rental fleets in China, to the U.S.