New BYD Electric Buses are a BFD on Santa Catalina Island

BYD C6 Motor Coach

BYD Coach and Bus, the largest battery-electric bus manufacturer in North America, announced Monday that the Catalina Island Co. is deploying three new BYD C6 motor coaches to shuttle tourists around Santa Catalina Island.

Catalina is, of course, known for strictly limiting private auto use (thus, the electric golf carts) and for developing sustainable transportation alternatives (thus, my sore thighs from the rented bicycles).

The 23-foot BYD C6 Motor Coach is billed as having a range of 125 miles and the ability to climb substantial grades, which is necessary on Catalina given the the island’s hills and contours. The buses produce zero emissions, and BYD says its batteries are 100 percent recyclable.

Catalina Island Co. is replacing aging diesel-powered buses with the so-called “green” coaches, which are being used on the Skyline Drive and Inland Expedition tours. The greenies boast large windows for sightseeing, headrest-mounted video screens, integrated sound systems and smooth, quiet, air-conditioned rides for up to 18 passengers.

New edition to the Catalina Fleet (Catalina Island Co.)

BYD, which stands for “Build Your Dreams” and has trademarked “The Official Sponsor of Mother Nature,” is the world’s largest manufacturer of electric vehicles. While it has created more than 700 local jobs at its Coach and Bus Production Facility in Lancaster, the BYD parent company is in China.

The company has run into some hiccups in the Golden State. After winning a Long Beach Transit contract in March 2013 to build 10 new buses, BYD was deemed ineligible to have competed by the Federal Transit Administration, which alleged regulations on federally funded projects were violated. The following year, Long Beach Transit terminated the BYD contract.

Also in 2013, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy labor rights group accused BYD of minimum wage and other labor violations. California labor officials investigated and ultimately fined the company $100,000 for paying Chinese nationals only $1.50 an hour to work at the SoCal bus building plant. But BYD accused the labor rights group of spreading “misinformation” and appealed the state fine. In a statement issued at the time, BYD explained that the Chinese workers had been transferred only to train local employees and that no American workers were being displaced, claiming the company was “dedicated to ensuring that its employees are treated fairly” and that it would be hiring more Americans.

Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.

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