By Ronan Glon
Monday, May 7th, 2012 @ 4:14 am
 
After launching a pilot program in a suburb of Helsinki, Finland, China's BYD is looking toward Canada to continue the global expansion of its booming electric bus business.

The company has just obtained a letter of intent for the purchase of up to ten buses from Eddie Francis, the mayor of Windsor, Ontario.

The agreement promises to make Windsor the first city in North America to launch all-electric long-range buses. At least one of them will be used to take passengers to Detroit via a tunnel, so the buses will also be operating on U.S. soil.

BYD hopes that the contract with Windsor will enable it to gain a much-needed foothold in North America. The company is currently in talks with the Canadian authorities to manufacture buses in Ontario in the near future.

"One of our primary goals was to position Windsor among the first cities in North America to pioneer the efficient use of electric buses within its public transit authority and to establish Windsor as a hub for the development, manufacture and commercialization of energy products including electric buses," said Stella Li, the president of BYD Motors.

The company's K9 bus, its latest model, can be fully charged in just six hours. A quick charger can fill 50 percent of its battery in 30 minutes, BYD says. Either way, the buses have a 186 mile (or 300 kilometer) range under ideal driving conditions thanks to in-wheel motors that give it a 60 mph top speed. One of the main advantages of BYD buses is that they store their energy in iron-phosphate batteries that can be cleanly recycled. The batteries were entirely developed in-house by BYD.

The city of Windsor has a different recycling scheme in mind: It hopes that when the buses are taken off the road in 12 to 15 years, their batteries will be turned into fixed energy storage stations.