Electric public transportation firm makes comeback

James Holtz, fleet sales manager for BYD Motors Inc., points out some of the battery packs used to power an electric bus built at the firm's Lancaster facility. A state tax credit will enable the company to invest and hire in Greater Los Angeles.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

A Chinese electric bus and truck manufacturer is making a comeback after hitting roadblocks on a Long Beach deal and being wrongfully charged with labor law violations.

State officials recently granted BYD Motors Inc. a five-year, $3-million corporate income tax credit. In turn, the firm committed to investing $51 million and hiring 590 employees at two manufacturing centers in the high-desert city of Lancaster and a U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles.

The grant was the largest of 56 approved Jan. 15 by the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development as part of the California Competes program. The tax credit provides incentives to companies to open and expand operations in the Golden State.


California Competes has issued $60 million in tax breaks to 85 companies that agreed to invest $3 billion to create 10,000 jobs statewide. In the latest round, the program gave credits to 15 firms in Los Angeles County, including Kite Pharma Inc., a Santa Monica biotech company, and Kinkisharyo (USA), a light-rail vehicle manufacturer in El Segundo.

The BYD award is a vote of confidence for the firm, which already has about 100 people working in Lancaster and 30 in Los Angeles, said Vice President Micheal Austin. “We are committed to building.”

The projected increase in payroll marks a turnaround for BYD, which was hit with bad publicity in early 2013 when regulators accused it of violating state minimum-wage laws. The charges were dropped in early 2014 after BYD presented contrary evidence.

In March, BYD suffered another setback when federal transportation officials ruled it ineligible to bid on a Long Beach contract. BYD said it has since submitted a new bid for the contract.

BYD already has delivered five electric buses to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and plans call for 20 more, he said. Stanford University purchased 13.

The new funding, Austin said, will boost production of its 40- and 60-foot, zero-emission electric buses and develop other electric vehicles, including trucks, delivery vans and forklifts.


Fracking data

Supporters and opponents of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” have new data about the controversial oil drilling technique.

A scientific study — authorized by a 2013 law — has concluded that about one-fifth of all California wells that are fractured with a mix of high-pressure water, sand and chemicals are in the San Joaquin Valley, and almost entirely in Kern County. There’s no significant production from the so-called Monterey Shale formation, which has been touted as a potential energy bonanza.

The California wells are shallower than those in other states, the study found. That concerns fracking foes. “There’s a greater risk to drinking water when fracking happens so close,” said Kassie Siegel, a spokeswoman for Californians Against Fracking.

Oil industry spokesman Colin Maynard disagreed, saying fracking in California “has never been associated with any known adverse environmental impacts.”


Twitter: @MarcLifsher