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China's BYD spots opportunity for its electric buses -- in Japan

Expanded customer support and services to pave way for sales surge

BYD made the first Japanese delivery of its K8 large bus to Heiwa Kotsu in greater Tokyo earlier this year. (Photo courtesy of BYD Japan)

TOKYO -- Chinese automaker BYD is fortifying after-sales services in Japan to sell more electric buses, deeming the market ripe for widespread adoption of electricity-powered vehicles.

Local unit BYD Japan, which has sold more than 50 electric buses in the country, is set to increase marketing for transportation companies and seeks to lift the sales tally to about 4,000 by 2030.

"EV buses are set to enter the phase of popularization" in Japan, said Shinsaku Hanada, executive vice president at the subsidiary.

As demand grows, its service infrastructure will also be beefed up. Currently, BYD Japan has a network of 20 or so partners, including mechanics, that provide services from instructing operators to repairs and maintenance. This network will increase to 200 to 300 members across the country.

BYD Japan will also fully roll out telematics capabilities for wireless fleet management, including monitoring vehicle locations and battery conditions. A pilot program was conducted in 2020, with this technology equipped in electric buses run by a Michinori Holdings group member, Aizu Bus, operating in Fukushima Prefecture. Going forward, new vehicles will feature updated telematics technology for increased efficiency.

In February, BYD made the first Japanese delivery of its K8 large bus to Heiwa Kotsu in greater Tokyo. It builds vehicles in China but designs small, midsize and large buses compatible with Japanese standards in Japan, where it also offers the smaller J6 model.

BYD buses come with a CHAdeMO charging point and, according to the company, can run a full day on an overnight charge. It costs about 20% less to fuel an electric bus than it does diesel-engine buses, and prices are expected to come down further as more operators start to embrace them.

BYD Japan, which controls about 70% of the local electric bus market, intends to start hiring new graduates next year and will consider growing its roughly 30-member staff to 100 strong. It also aims to generate about 10 billion yen ($90.1 million) in annual bus-related revenue, up from roughly 2 billion yen at present.

BYD's push comes as Toyota group truck manufacturer Hino Motors plans to debut small electric buses next year.

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