We are familiar with BYD as a maker of electric buses at its factory in Lancaster, California. Even though BYD is a Chinese company, it employs 530 workers at its American factory and plans to triple that number by 2020. BYD has already built about 300 electric buses in the US, but what most people don’t know is that it has also built about 150 electric truck products here and is planning to aggressively add to the number of electric truck models it offers to American clients.
Its electric truck offerings span the Class 5 through Class 7 weight categories (those would be what most people would consider medium to medium heavy duty trucks) and are available in many configurations from flatbeds to vans to refrigerated box trucks. BYD also offers a Class 6 trash hauling electric truck. It has designed an electric parcel van for UPS that is undergoing testing. (UPS is also experimenting with a plug-in hybrid powertrain manufactured by Workhorse.)
Trash hauling is a category that is attracting attention from many other companies because trash trucks contribute significantly to carbon, nitrous oxide, and particulate emissions from their diesel engines. Wrightspeed in San Francisco is also pursuing that market with its innovative electric powertrain with a clean burning natural gas turbine range extender engine.
The corridor between the container ports in southern California and freight distribution warehouses located inland is another area getting significant attention. The area is overrun with short range drayage trucks that make the 20 mile or less round trip 24 hours a day every day, spewing out diesel pollution every mile of the way. BYD has an electric tractor specifically designed for such short range freight hauling duty.
BYD also is developing a Class 8 on-road tractor for the U.S. market using a model already in service in China. Elon Musk said last year that an electric tractor dubbed the Tesla Semi is in the works. More news on that vehicle is expected after production of the Model 3 sedan begins. Tesla also says it is working on an electric pickup truck but it better not dawdle. BYD also has Class 1 to Class 4 light duty electric trucks in development.
Andy Swanton, vice president of the BYD Truck division, says the capacity of the current factory is 150 buses and 100 trucks a year, but that could grow to 1,000 vehicles a year when the factory is fully built out. A 40,000-square-foot extension of the factory is scheduled to open soon as well as a 200,000 square foot expansion that should be completed by the end of the year. The company’s battery unit operates a separate lithium ion battery assembly facility in a 44,000 square foot facility a few miles away from the truck and bus factory.