Has California’s dream of zero-emission electric transit buses turned into something more akin to a nightmare?
A deal under which the city of Long Beach would buy 15 electric transit buses from Chinese automaker BYD has fallen apart, according to ChargedEVs.
The city and BYD agreed to terminate the existing contract after the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) withdrew grant money that would have gone toward the $12.1 million-project.
The FTA blocked the bus purchase because BYD was not eligible to bid for the bus contract when Long Beach Transit board members approved it in March 2013. The company had not provided adequate documentation showing its compliance with the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program, according to federal officials.
The regulation requires contractors receiving federal money to give minority-owned businesses a chance at the work. Federal officials warned Long Beach of BYD’s ineligibility at the time the contract was approved, and presented the city with an ultimatum last month: start the bidding process all over again, or lose the grant money.
Long Beach and BYD opted for choice number one.
BYD — which stands for Build Your Dreams — is still eligible to participate in a new round of bidding, so there’s a chance it will build Long Beach’s buses after all.
In a statement, BYD CEO Stella Li questioned why the FTA waited so long to take action but said her company would submit a new bid.
In addition to the Long Beach order, Los Angeles has agreed to test five BYD buses in revenue service and buy 20 more if the city’s transit agency finds them satisfactory.
BYD has built more than 1,000 electric buses for Chinese cities, and has also tested one in Quebec. At least one electric BYD bus–operating around the Denver International Airport–is now in service in the U.S..
The company turned to buses after several failed attempts to sell its e6 electric crossover in the U.S., although it may still be imported as a fleet vehicle.
This story originally appeared on Green Car Reports. Copyright 2014