LBT staff first made the recommendation to go with the BYD bid in February, but the LBT board asked to table the decision for a month to gather more information. After two study sessions, that decision was made at Monday’s meeting on a 5-2 vote, with Lori Ann Farrell and Maricela de Rivera voting no.
BYD has been in business since 1995 and sells batteries, solar panels and electric cars in addition to buses. Company officials said they plan to build a new chassis facility in California sometime next year, although the chassis for the first 10 Long Beach buses will come from China. The batteries are built in a plant in LA.
Proterra was formed in 2004 and has about 160 employees. They have sold 32 of their EcoRide BE35 electric buses and have delivered 14 (compared to 1,000 and 365 for BYD).
Both firms’ coaches carry 35 seated passengers and more than 20 standing. A primary difference is Proterra’s use of lithium-titanate batteries offering a 30-mile range where BTD uses iron-phosphate batteries with a 7.5 year warranty and a range of 118 to 163 miles.
LBT plans to use the buses on the Passport routes downtown, including trips to and from the Queen Mary. The board approved an additional $1.8 million in potential spending if a WAVE (Wireless Advanced Vehicle Electrification) charging system can be developed from current prototypes as a charging station at the Queen Mary stop. The $11.5 million bid includes 10 manual pug-in depot chargers, which take four hours for a full charge.
According to the staff report, the BYD system will cost significantly less than the Proterra system, saving more than $4 million, despite the lower initial cost for Proterra buses. The proven battery system and warranty were other major factors in BYD’s favor.
Money for the purchase came primarily from a Federal Transit Administration grant from the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) program, some Prop 1B money and a $700,000 grant from the Port of Long Beach’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Mitigation Grant Program.