'We will be ordering BYD buses,' Mayor Francis says

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis says he was not caught off guard by Chinese bus manufacturer BYD's decision to test electric buses in Quebec.

Chinese manufacturer field testing electric buses in Quebec called 'good news'

BYD was to open a North American manufacturing plant in Lancaster, Calif., this spring. (Associated Press)

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis says he was not caught off guard by Chinese bus manufacturer BYD's decision to test electric buses in Quebec.

"This information was shared with us long ago. It comes as good news. We also know other jurisdictions in Canada where they will field test," Francis said. "The pilot project will allow them to test the buses against adverse weather conditions.

"I think this dispels any rumours [they aren't coming to Canada]."

A statement issued by the company says the electric buses will be tested by transit riders in Gatineau this month and in Montreal in 2014.

The Quebec government paid $240,000 for the project, according to the company statement.

An exclusivity agreement between the City of Windsor and BYD expired in May.

For its part of the deal, the city had intended to purchase as many as 10 electric buses from the Chinese company and add at least two of them to its Transit Windsor fleet by the fall of 2012.

That didn't happen.

The agreement also stated BYD would stop looking for a North American municipality in which to manufacture the buses while Transit Windsor ran pilots with the buses.

"For BYD to open a facility to open a Canada, it will require transportation agencies across the country to order buses. You can only have a factory when there are orders," Francis said. "This puts BYD closer to getting the orders they need to sustain a manufacturing facility in this country."

In May, BYD had yet to file Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards paperwork that, if approved, would allow its electric buses on Windsor streets.

Federal safety certification is needed before Transit Windsor can buy and put to used a pair of electric buses.

Francis said it's his understanding that paperwork and safety standards will be filed and met, respectively, "by the end of summer."

"Once the standards are in place, we have an arrangement in place where we will be ordering buses," Francis said. "I don’t think it’s a question of optimism.  It’s a question of making sure the buses are safe and pass all federal and provincial requirements."

Francis said during any discussion with BYD, a Windsor factory "has always been the centre of our discussion."

But in May, BYD opened a North American manufacturing plant in Lancaster, Calif. The company builds 12-metre (39-foot) buses there, the very buses anticipated to be used and built in Windsor.

BYD, which opened its North American headquarters in Los Angeles in 2010, said in May the plant will initially turn out 10 electric buses for the city of Long Beach. It expects the vehicles, with a range of 150 miles between charges, to be delivered next year. In April, the Long Beach Transit Authority awarded BYD a $12.1 million contract for the zero-emission buses, a company statement said.

Francis has previously claimed BYD would build up to 500 buses a year in Windsor.

"That’s 500 direct jobs and that doesn’t include the parts supply chain up stream and downstream," Francis told CBC News last year.