Los Angeles Keeps Contracting With Maker of Faulty Electric Buses

The Los Angeles Times reports that electric buses purchased by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority are lemons.

“When Chinese battery maker BYD Ltd. approached Southern California officials in 2008 touting ambitious plans to build electric cars, local politicians jumped at the promise of thousands of jobs and cleaner air,” the Times explained. “In the nine years since, agencies have awarded BYD grants, subsidies and public contracts worth more than $330 million for its battery-powered buses, forklifts and trucks. The company is positioned to be a prime supplier of electric buses to the nation’s second-largest system, as Los Angeles’ Metro sets a 12-year deadline to abandon fossil fuels. But largely unbeknownst to the public, BYD’s electric buses are contending with a record of poor performance and mechanical problems.”

A Times investigation found that the buses “stalled on hills, required service calls much more frequently than older buses and had unpredictable driving ranges below advertised distances, which were impaired by the heat, the cold or the way drivers braked.”

The first five buses BYD sent to Los Angeles Metro were pulled off the road after less than five months of service. Internal emails and other agency records show that agency staff called them “unsuitable,” poorly made and unreliable for more than 100 miles.

“Despite strong concerns from its own staff about the quality and reliability of the company’s vehicles, the transit agency awarded BYD tens of millions of dollars more in public contracts,” the Times wrote.

Problems were plentiful during the first 10 days after the first five buses were unveiled in 2015: “White smoke issued from the rear wheel of #1005. Bus #1004 wouldn’t start its second run of the day and on its next run needed a jump-start. Bus #1001 limped back to the depot when its battery dropped to 15 percent charge after just 68 miles, failing to complete its route. Then, logs show, #1005 stalled on the road.” (Source: Los Angeles Times, May 20.)

California Tax Foundation   |   1215 K Street, Sacramento, CA 95814   |   916.441.0490   |   foundation@caltax.org