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Chinese car maker BYD starts engine on mask production

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-03-16 16:40
BYD, China's biggest electric vehicle maker, churns out face masks and disinfectant liquid on Feb 8. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

SHENZHEN - Many companies in China, including underwear and ship makers, have transformed their businesses to cater to the rising demand for masks amid the coronavirus epidemic. Now, a new participant has joined the list: China's leading new energy vehicle manufacturer BYD.

In BYD's Baolong industrial garden in the southern metropolis of Shenzhen, Guangdong province, more than 600 workers were packaging and examining the masks churned out from 100 production lines in a 15,000-square-meter factory.

The factory was used as an electronic production area just a little over one month ago.

Following the virus outbreak, masks became the most needed protective gear, in addition to disinfectants and protective overalls. Meanwhile, BYD was under pressure to resume work, said Li Wei, with BYD's president's office.

"We have 250,000 employees, and if we prepare two masks for each of them, we would need 500,000 masks," Li said. "Shenzhen has more than 20 million people, and they would need more than 40 million masks if each person needed two masks."

Under such circumstances, BYD decided to make masks itself.

"We were in dire need of mask-making machines, but each machine usually takes 40 days to make," Li said. "Besides, it was impossible to buy such equipment during the epidemic, so we were determined that we would make the machines by ourselves."

The company quickly formed a research team, and drew more than 400 equipment drafts within three days. They then spent seven days turning the drafts into actual machines. For each mask-making machine, BYD took charge of 90 percent of the 1,300-plus components, including the gears, chains and rollers. Within a month, BYD created 100 mask production lines.

On Feb 17, BYD's first batch of masks went offline. Each line can make 50,000 masks a day. With the new production lines, BYD is able to make five million masks and 300,000 bottles of disinfectant on a daily basis, making the company one of the biggest mask manufacturers in the world.

Besides internal use, BYD said some of the masks are donated to frontline hospitals, public transit companies, airports and ports. Some are given to the government for allocation, and some are provided to BYD's strategic partners.

BYD plans to expand its production lines to 200 with a daily capacity of up to 10 million masks. The masks will also be provided to other countries hit hard by the virus, after meeting domestic demand.

On Sunday, BYD inked an agreement with local officials in Shenzhen, pledging to allocate 15 million masks to six designated supermarkets and pharmacies in Shenzhen. Each mask will cost no more than 2.5 yuan (36 cents).

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