China appears to be winning EV expansion

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A lot can happen when you’re not looking.

It’s no secret that China has been trying for years to get a foothold in the highly competitive U.S. auto market. And thanks to concerns over emissions it looks like they’ve found it.

We’ve reported before on Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer Build Your Dreams (BYD) and the progress they’ve made in the U.S. Their corporate office in Los Angeles is about 72 miles south from their motor factory in Lancaster where they’ve been busy undergoing another expansion—a 100,000 square-foot addition following a large purchase of land.

To the north, in the San Francisco Bay Area, China Daily reports that BYD’s new service hub is being backed by California’s new rule to transition public transit to zero emissions by 2040.

“The company has purchased an additional 150 acres of land near its manufacturing plant in Lancaster, California, and is planning service and maintenance centers across the United States,” chinadaily.com writes.

BYD expects to see electric bus production at its Lancaster plant to continue growing to the tune of 1,500 buses a year. And those vehicles are moving beyond the Golden State. BYD just reported today on electric buses that were deployed in Chattanooga, Tenn.:

Chattanooga loves the new BYD transit buses that have been operating in the city since last week. Lisa Maragnano, executive director of the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA), says, “Their performance has been phenomenal, so we’re very happy about that. They’re averaging about eight and a half hours per charge, and we’ve tested them on seven different routes, so it’s been going really, really well.”

Talk about smart marketing. The BYD brand is gaining valuable ground in a key state where auto manufacturing has taken off. Even if BYD doesn’t break ground in Tennessee, its brand is getting important accolades from key government officials there—and after all, it’s been government officials armed with stricter emissions regulations who have largely been paving the way for electric vehicles in the U.S.

And BYD isn’t just about busses. They produce all classes of vehicles. In late January, they announced the release of commercial trucks and vans in Europe. Their Class 8 electric drayage trucks have been at work for quite some time in California supported by state funds.

BYD also announced that they’ll be unveiling a new Class 6 refrigerated box truck at the Home Delivery World Expo next week in Philadelphia. That definitely gets your attention. Normal duty cycles are demanding enough on an EV. BYD also produces hybrid systems so one wonders if that reefer truck will be getting some help from an internal combustion engine.

Given BYD’s immense size and ongoing global expansion (it’s the largest EV manufacturer in the world) is it any wonder that Cummins, Daimler, Ford, FCA, GM, Volkswagen and other major players in auto have announced big electrification plans? Less than two years ago Ford said that an electric F-150 didn’t make much sense. Now, they’re working to fully electrify their entire F-Series lineup.

BYD isn’t the only Chinese automaker making headway in the U.S. All electric Chanje vans are rolling out here as well. Another indicator of Chinese dedication? They’re the largest importer of battery-building lithium in the world. While diesel currently dominates the commercial vehicle space, there are a lot of tough regulations and big money pointing to an all-electric future for all classes of auto. And right now it looks like China is in the lead.