On Tuesday, November 13, 2018, the city announced its plans to cancel the manufacturing contract with Build Your Dreams (BYD) with two major problem cited as the brakes and the batteries for the electric buses.
The city wants to return all the 60-foot electric buses manufactured and delivered for the disastrous ART Bus Project.
During the November 13, 2018 press conference, Mayor Keller revealed that the city sent a “registered mail” letter demanding that BYD take possession of the buses and the chargers by November 30, 2018.
The demand letter also put BYD on notice that the city intends to seek “damages, costs, attorney fees and any relief to which it is legally entitled to” essentially giving BYD notice that the city intends to sue.
On November 14, 2018, BYD President Stella Li issued a statement vehemently denying the accusations made by Mayor Tim Keller saying:
“Keller’s media statements slander and maliciously harm the reputation and good name of BYD, … 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. … [Albuquerque] 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.”
On Monday, November 19, 2018 BYD Vice President Michael Austin told an Indianapolis television station that ABQ Ride bus drivers were to blame for reported braking problems.
During an on-air TV interview in Indianapolis, Michael Austin said BYD buses were inspected 3 times before they were sent to Albuquerque, and pronounced the BYD bus technology as safe.
Additional news media coverage can be reviewed here:
LONG DISTANCE ACCUSATIONS
BYD Vice President Michael Austin was in Indianapolis on Monday, November 19, 2018 to take local media on a test ride of one of their IndyGo buses, and when asked about the Albuquerque buses he said a lack of driver training was part of ABQ Ride problems.
IndyGo manages and operates the Indiana capital city’s public bus transit system and has purchased 13 60-foot electric buses from BYD in an effort to replace its mass-transit system’s older diesel fleet.
The city of Indianapolis has contracted to pay more than $1.2 million each for the buses that will run along a 14-mile route.
IndyGo told the TV station it is not seeing the same problems on their BYD test bus in part because the bus now uses different battery technology.
According to BYD, Albuquerque’s ART buses use iron-phosphate batteries that are “fire-safe, nontoxic and environmentally friendly.”
The IndyGo buses are using liquid-cooled batteries, according to Indianapolis Business Journal.
Albuquerque officials have said the battery life on the ART Buses is much shorter than promised, and that the batteries overheat and can be in danger of exploding.
According to Austin:
“We have 36,000 buses deployed. … We have not seen those issues. We know what the issues are, and they were more driver errors misreported to the media as safety issues.”
Austin is now blaming Mayor Tim Keller for coming up with falsehoods to get out of the purchase agreement by saying:
“The buses [manufactured for Albuquerque] were inspected three times before they ever left our factory, they passed all brake testing, and they still pass, so they were looking for a way out of the contract from the beginning. … When Albuquerque’s new elected mayor came into office he immediately asked to terminate the contract before any issues were found. Now he’s figuring out a way … He’s come up with some claims that we believe are false.”
Mayor Keller responded to Austin by saying:
“Well that’s not actually true, we never tried to terminate the contract. In fact, it was the opposite. We reached out and said can you help us get this done in a way that the busses will actually work. … We want to do business with companies that just keep their words, are professional and deliver on their contractual obligations.”
REPORTED PROBLEMS WITH THE BYD BUSES
The reported problems associated with the buses that can be gleaned from newspaper and media accounts include:
1. The center and rear brakes had zero air pressure, yet the 60-foot-long articulated buses were able to move, meaning that the center and rear axle brakes were not working and the buses were relying on their front brakes alone.
2. Rear doors would open during bus operation without any action by the driver.
3. The buses have air conditioning outages.
4. Bolts flying off doors
5. The electric buses delivered are supposed to operate for 275 miles, but city officials found the buses cannot go more than 177 miles before they need recharging.
6. The lack of undercarriage protection.
7. Buses that wouldn’t stop when emergency doors were utilized.
8. Cracking on bus exteriors.
9. Mirrors not set up correctly.
10. Wiring problems and electrical system problems.
11. The handicap electric chair lock becoming unsecured when the driver turns on the air conditioner.
12. BYD still has not provided the extra charging stations promised.
13. The bus batteries heat up so much that they can’t take a charge.
14. The batteries or not properly stored or cooled on the buses posing a fire hazard.
The Keller Administration reported that the deficiencies with the brakes, batteries and doors are “fleet-wide issues”.
Albuquerque city officials are standing by their previous comments on the BYD buses.
Alicia Manzano, spokeswoman for Mayor Tim Keller’s office, had this to say in response to Austin:
“We’ve laid out the facts since the beginning, and these buses are not safe for the road. We refuse to jeopardize the safety of our residents and want BYD to hold up their end of the deal.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It is easy to imagine hearing the bus manufacturer spokesman say:
“All the problems with the new buses are driver error! There is nothing wrong with the the buses! Don’t you damn fools in Albuquerque believe former Mayor Richard Berry when he said that this is “proven technology”, we know what we are doing. You taxpayers have no right to demand to get what you paid for. Your elected officials know what is good for you and let the buyer beware!”
What is so damn laughable is the false accusation being made against Keller that when he was sworn into office last year he immediately asked to terminate the contract before any problems were found.
BDY’s accusation that the ART Bus project is a public works project that Mayor Keller has long criticized as part of his campaign platform to get elected Mayor is downright false and could not be further from the truth.
During his year and a half quest to become Mayor of Albuquerque, Tim Keller never called upon his predecessor to stop the ART Bus project, nor to cancel the bus contract nor did he ever condemn it as destroying historical Route 66.
Tim Keller did not attend a single public hearing or meetings held by the Berry Administration on the project, including the meetings hosted by city councilors.
Keller has wasted the first year of his 4-year term trying to save the project by giving BYD the benefit of the doubt in their ability to deliver the buses.
From day one of being Mayor, Keller has said that too much has been spent on the project and it would be too costly to reverse the project.
When 15 new buses were delivered, the Keller administration took possession and did not return them and only now is trying to cancel the contract.
The time for talking is over and its time to get on with litigation to make taxpayers whole again and perhaps restore Route 66.