We'll Build Buses for China

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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa poses for the cameras on a Balqon truck (Credit: Balqon)

This might have snuck past you over the weekend. Harbor City-based Balqon has signed a $16 million deal to build 300 drive systems for inner-city buses in China.

Balqon began building electric drayage trucks for Southern California ports in early 2009 - with $500,000 in seed money from the Port of Los Angeles and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Now the company plans to hire 150 new workers to meet expanding demand from China.

The deal between Balqon and Winston Global Energy, a Chinese lithium-ion battery maker, creates a partnership to build electric buses, trucks, marine vessels and motorhomes. Yes, motorhomes. The first one, a 45-foot prototype, was completed in September.

But first, Balqon plans to build 1,000 zero-emission buses for use in China.

Balwinder Samra, Balqon's President and CEO, tells the Long Beach Press Telegram: "Places like China and India in particular are really pushing research and development into battery and electric technology because they see the drain that oil (price) fluctuations can have on an economy, and they don't want to have oil prices being a drag on their economies like they've seen in America and Europe. It's smart planning. You can't run an economy where a single commodity can swing you from growth to recession."

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About Rachael Myrow

Rachael Myrow hosts the California Report for KQED. Over 17 years in public radio, she's worked for Marketplace and KPCC, filed for NPR and The World, and developed a sizable tea collection that's become the envy of the KQED newsroom. She specializes in politics, economics and history in California - but for emotional balance, she also covers food and its relationship to health and happiness.

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