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China’s BYD nears deal to supply London’s electric double decker buses

LEEDS, ENGLAND - MAY 19: Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London visits the electric bus manufacturer Switch Mobility in Yorkshire on May 19, 2021 in Leeds, England. The visit comes to see the affects that green investment from Transport for London is having in different parts of the country. There are currently 67 Switch electric buses in operation in London’s London fleet, and Switch estimate that around 50 per cent of their revenue last year was from TfL contracts. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

Rapidly expanding Chinese automaker BYD is close to a deal that would see it supply all-electric double decker buses in London.

Transport giant Go-Ahead Group is set to award the Shenzhen-based firm a contract to build more than 100 of the vehicles at around £400,000 each and £100,000 cheaper than its UK competitors, sources told the Sunday Times.

The decision has been given the green light by Transport for London (TfL), which is chaired by Mayor Sadiq Khan. BYD previously partnered with competitor Alexander Dennis and has produced hundreds of electric double decker buses for Go-Ahead.

The firm is one of a slew of Chinese automakers rapidly expanding on the European continent, offering electric vehicles (EVs) at cut throat prices. It is backed by Warren Buffet and earlier this year, overtook Elon Musk’s Tesla to take the top spot in global EV sales for the first time.

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But the new deal could raise eyebrows given BYD has faced accusations from human rights groups that metals in its supply chains were made using Uyghur forced labour.

The United Nations in 2021 wrote to BYD stating it had “received information” the company may be involved through its supply chain “in alleged forced labour, arbitrary detention and trafficking of Uyghur [muslims] and other minority workers.”

Tom Cunnington, head of bus business development at TfL, said: “We have been assured by the manufacturer that no unethical practices have taken place and would act immediately if provided with evidence to the contrary.

“TfL is a member of the Electronics Watch Low-Emission Vehicle Programme, working to apply the worker-driven monitoring model of Electonics Watch to the electric vehicle market.

“All bus companies have individual robust ethical and sustainability policies that ensure the highest standards are met on the environment and workers’ rights.”

BYD and Go-Ahead Group did not respond to a City A.M. request for comment.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, former conservative party leader Sir Ian Duncan Smith, said: “We’ve yet again gone to China to build buses. What is the matter with our domestic production?

“These are iconic, British London buses. Why is it that we simply do not look for a contractor based, if not in the UK, then certainly in Europe.”