Long Beach’s electric-bus deal gets killed by the feds

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. 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.

It’s back to the drawing board for BYD, which has mutually agreed with the Long Beach Transportation Company (LBT) to terminate its contract for the delivery of 10 electric buses. In a puzzling twist, Long Beach may still end up buying the BYD buses, but the current deal is dead, and BYD will have to submit a new bid along with any interested competitors. The plan to buy buses from Chinese-owned BYD has been controversial from the beginning. But it wasn’t the protestations of competitor Proterra, or doubts about the buses’ performance insafety testing, that scuttled the deal. Rather, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) withdrew a $12.1-million federal grant that was meant to finance the purchase, because the company could not certify compliance with the government’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program, an oversight that BYD calls “a good faith error.”

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