Maker of Laval’s $1 million electric bus goes bust

By Robert Frank

A Delaware bankruptcy court judge has ordered the sale of Designline, the company Laval hired to make its electric buses.

Designline filed for bankruptcy, Aug. 15, and the firm’s bus manufacturing line in Charlotte, North Carolina, ground to a halt at the beginning of October. The announcement that it will be auctioned off, Oct. 28, raises the possibility that Designline’s assets will be sold off piecemeal.

Quebec Transport Minister Sylvain Gareau and Laval des Rapides MNA Léo Bureau-Blouin launched the project with great fanfare in January. They said that Quebec taxpayers would subsidize Laval’s electric buses to the tune of $600,000, and that Hydro-Québec would kick in another $100,000.

Laval’s transit authority has been testing a Designline battery-powered bus since April. Société des transports de Laval (STL) has spent nearly $1 million on the initial prototype.

STL’s prototype has been plying Laval streets since it was placed in service in April, and was slated to enter regular service this fall. STL showed off its new technology at a series of public viewings, and offered free electric bus shuttle service between Montmorency and Le Carrefour on several weekends during the summer.

Bankrupt busmaker Designline is known for its excellent high-level political connections. It formerly employed Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, whom President Barrack Obama appointed United States Secretary of Transportation, July 2.

When The Suburban went to press, it was unclear whether STL is among Designline’s creditors. Court documents indicate that it owes its biggest creditor, New Jersey Transit, wants back the US$3.64 million it had already paid for as-yet undelivered buses. In 2011, a Designline hybrid-electric bus that served Charlotte International Airport caught fire. No one was injured in the blaze.

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