BYD is getting ready to grow its manufacturing plant and presence in the U.S. zero-emission bus and truck market.

Chinese automaker BYD said that its launched the second of three expansion phases at its manufacturing plant in Lancaster, Calif. Located about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, the plant is expected to see an additional 40,000 square feet added to the existing facility.

There are currently about 400 people working at the plant, with plans to triple employment as the company responds to increased demand for its electric coaches and buses, along with new medium- and heavy-duty trucks. While known for being the top seller of all-electric and plug-in hybrid passenger cars in China, BYD’s California plant is being expanded to supply transit districts and fleets with commercial vehicles.

The company has a third phase in the works, to bring the plant up to full size with capacity for a higher production volume. The company’s U.S. website shows that electric taxi sedans and forklifts are in the works.

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“The people who work at BYD’s Lancaster plant are assembling buses for transit systems all over the country and soon we’ll be able to increase production line capacity to deliver these cutting-edge zero emission vehicles even faster to customers,” said Stella Li, BYD America president, in a statement.

There’s been speculation about BYD bringing top selling plug-in electrified vehicles in China to the U.S. market, such as the Qin plug-in hybrid sedan, which has been the top selling PEV in China. When asked if the automaker plans to produce light vehicles in the U.S., a company spokesman declined to comment.

In July, Shanghai Samsung Semiconductor, a unit of Samsung Electronics Co., bought a $449 million stake in BYD. In 2008, Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway invested $230 million in BYD for a 10 percent stake in the company.

BYD recently announced a partnership with the Beijing Environmental Sanitation Engineering Group to build electric sanitation trucks. The two companies will be building 26 different truck models, with load capacities ranging from one to 32 tons.

Automotive News