By Susan, November 1, 2013
Some good news and not-so-good news for hybrid and electric buses. First some good news. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
(CA) will add 50 new hybrid buses to its fleet. The 40-foot New Flyer
buses will replace 2000/2001 Neoplan diesel buses that have reached or
exceeded their useful service life of 12 years. “Every day, San
Franciscans experience the fallout from Muni’s aging and unreliable
vehicle fleet,” said San Francisco supervisor Scott Wiener in a statement.
“Gradually replacing Muni’s vehicle fleet will improve reliability and
help make Muni the system it needs to be.” The vehicles will cost $38.3
million and with funding from federal, state, and local sources.
In North Carolina, a U.S. bankruptcy court judge approved the sale of
hybrid bus manufacturer DesignLine’s assets to a California investor
who said he plans to reopen the plant. The company filed for bankruptcy protection
in August, and Wonderland Investment Group bid $1.6 million for the
plant and equpment. DesignLine listed assets of $14 million and debts of
$37.5 million in its bankruptcy filing.
Wonderland president Tony Luo said he plans to invest $30 million in
DesignLine. “I want to grow DesignLine and the economy here,” he said,
referring to the company’s location in Charlotte. Before the plant
reopens, however, he will have to negotiate contracts with bus operators
in New Jersey, Denver, and Montreal, all of which had agreements with
the bankrupt company. Link to full story in Charlotte Observer.
Finally, troubles continue for BYD Motors, which is under contract to build 10 all-electric buses for Long Beach Transit
(CA). At an LBT board of directors meeting this week, seven of nine
subassemblies in the pilot vehicle that BYD is building were not
approved for use. This follows flaws identified in bus frames being built at the company’s plant in China earlier in October and problems uncovered at the federal Altoona testing facility.
In addition, the Long Beach Post reports that BYD Motors is under investigation for alleged labor violations at the Lancaster (CA) plant where LBT’s buses will be assembled. According to the New York Times,
California officials have fined the company nearly $100,000 for
violating the minimum wage law and failing to provide sufficient
documentation of pay. Although the company promised to hire dozens of
California residents in the Lancaster facility and the downtown Los
Angeles headquarters, fewer than 40 have been hired to date and at least
five are Chinese nationals in the U.S. on temporary basis. One
Chinese-national worker said that employees received $1.50 per hour (in
yuan) plus a $50 daily allowance. “You cannot pay people in Chinese
dollars with Chinese standards while they are doing work in America,”
said California state labor commissioner Julie Su. “If this is the tip
of the iceberg, you could see this ruining all kinds of industries.”
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CA) has also agreed to purchase all-electric buses from BYD and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (NY) is currently testing a vehicle.