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Coronavirus

California to purchase masks from Chinese EV maker BYD

Company says it can produce 5m masks per day

BYD has been producing masks and disinfectants in China since February. (Photo courtesy of BYD) 

PALO ALTO, U.S. -- California has reached an agreement with Chinese electric carmaker BYD to supply the state with much-needed personal protection gears including masks, the governor's office said at a COVID-19 briefing Wednesday.

BYD America, the North America subsidiary of the leading Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer, "has a direct reach back into China and is able to build a pipeline of a sustainable amount of monthly mass [personal protection equipment supplies] that will be coming in to assist us here in California," said Mark Ghilarducci, the state's director emergency services.

On Feb. 8, BYD opened a newly built production plant in Shenzhen, China, to meet the worldwide shortage of masks and disinfectants. The plant, which BYD claims to be "the world's largest" mask-making facility, is able to produce 5 million masks and 300,000 bottles of disinfectant per day, according to a company release.

"A production line for high-quality face masks requires about 1,300 parts for various gears, chains, and rollers, 90% of which are BYD's self-made parts," said Sherry Li, director-general of BYD's president office.

Ghilarducci said he was confident BYD could meet the demand for crucial medical supplies in the state, which as of Wednesday had more than 17,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

"This is an organization that has a manufacturing capability that is specifically designed to meet this need," he said. 

BYD's manufacturing capability might not be the only reason why California chose the company. Headquartered in Los Angeles, BYD America has a 450,000-sq.-foot bus manufacturing facility in Lancaster, California, and employs over 750 workers in the U.S., according to the company website.

"This is a great partnership because it [BYD America] is a California-based company, and it's also one that we have been working with in the area in the climate space," Ghilarducci said.

Details of the agreement between the state of California and BYD, including where the personal protection gear will be manufactured, have not been disclosed.

On Wednesday, Taiwanese iPhone assembler Foxconn, the world's largest contract manufacturer, said it will begin producing ventilators in the U.S. to help alleviate a shortage in the country.

Foxconn said it will team up with Minnesota-based medical device company Medtronic to make the ventilators at its Wisconsin plant.

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