Chinese Electric-Car Maker Finally Approved for N95 Mask Supply
BYD Co., a Shenzhen-based Chinese electric-car producer which investor Warren Buffet has backed, finally gets federal approval for its $1 billion mask contract with the California state government two months after the deal was announced, The Wall Street Journal reported.
With federal certification, BYD can now supply millions of U.S. standard N95 masks, which could filter out 95 percent of very small particles including the coronavirus droplets. It has contracts with California, Washington state and Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp..
On Monday, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the U.S. mask regulator under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gave BYD approval to use N95 masks produced after June 7, more than a month later than the company had hoped.
To obtain approval from the NIOSH, mask manufacturers have to pass mask testing and factory inspections, which has now delayed the supply of necessary equipment to the healthcare workers at risk.
In early April, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the state’s deal with BYD for 150 million N95 masks each month. Although the original contract stipulated that the electric-car maker should obtain NIOSH approval by end of April, the latest version of the deal gives BYD until Friday to be federally certified.
Ms. Li, who is based in Los Angeles, told the Journal that BYD had failed its first factory audit because it lacked the correct documentation and that the company had underestimated the rigor of the regulatory process. The company is already supplying other types of masks for use in the U.S.
Besides California, Washington state has a $177 million contract with BYD for 55 million N95 masks. Japanese technology investor SoftBank also agreed to purchase 100 million N95 masks from the Chinese electric-car producer starting in May.