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BYD defends buses, rips mayor for criticism

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Charging stations for the Albuquerque Rapid Transit bus system lie idle along Central earlier this year. Mayor Tim Keller said they have given up on the BYD electric buses and will switch to diesel or gas buses.

The company contracted to design, build and deliver electric buses for the embattled Albuquerque Rapid Transit project returned fire at the city Friday, “vehemently” denying allegations the 15 buses delivered so far are unfit for service.

China-based BYD, also known as Build Your Dreams, said in a statement it is hiring “independent transportation experts” to evaluate the buses and prove they are safe and ready for use.

“We fully expect that these independent, unbiased inspections will conclusively demonstrate that our buses are built to the highest standards and capable of fulfilling the purpose that they were purchased for,” BYD president Stella Li said in the statement. “An independent investigation will prove to the world that we have been misrepresented.”

Mayor Tim Keller announced Tuesday the city would pull the plug on the BYD contract and is searching for diesel or gas alternative buses after problems ranging from failing brakes to insufficient battery life were discovered.

“Keller’s media statements slander and maliciously harm the reputation and good name of BYD,” according to the BYD statement. “These statements show that the city is not acting in good faith under the contract and further indicate a potential political agenda to discredit and throttle a public works project that the mayor has long criticized as part of his campaign platform.”

The BYD news release also touted the company’s reputation as the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer with 36,000 buses in service.

“City hall’s actions have not only wrongfully damaged BYD’s reputation, but also have deprived the citizens of Albuquerque of the world’s safest and most advanced pollution- and cost-reducing zero-emission transit bus. BYD will take all appropriate legal actions to protect itself in light of City Hall’s conduct,” according to the statement.

Keller also implied legal action could be taken against the company.

On Tuesday he released a letter sent by attorneys to BYD, informing them that in addition to rejecting the buses, it also will seek damages, costs, attorney fees and other relief.

“We’ve laid out the facts since the beginning, and these buses are not safe for the road,” Keller spokeswoman Alicia Manzano said in an emailed statement on Friday. “We refuse to jeopardize the safety of our residents and want BYD to hold up their end of the deal.”

The Albuquerque Rapid Transit project, intended to run along most of Central Avenue using specially built passenger platforms in the middle of the road, was initiated and championed by former Mayor Richard Berry.

BYD was originally contracted to build 20, 60-foot fully-electric buses for ART.