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Proterra electric bus offers both long-range battery model and fast-charge model.
Proterra electric bus offers both long-range battery model and fast-charge model.

Proterra: Charging Up For An Electric Transit Future

By Bill Moore

While diesel still dominates the global transit bus world, it's status is steadily being challenged by electric models and the dominate player in the North American market is Proterra. In this 'Future In Motion' podcast EV World's Bill Moore interviews their CEO, Ryan Popple.

How many electric buses do you think there are in the world?

Three hundred? Nope. Three thousand? Not even close Thirty thousand? Way off by at least a factor of 10.

Worldwide, as of 2017, there are an estimated 386,000 electric buses in operation, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And if that number doesn’t set you back on your heels - it did mine - BNEF projects e-buses will constitute 50% of the global market in 2025, a mere 80 months away.

And while the lion’s share of sales has been primarily in China where 115,700 e-buses were put into service in 2016 and nearly 90,000 in 2017, they are beginning to catch on in North America where there are two dominate players, China-based BYD, of which Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns a minority interest, and all-American Proterra, headed by Ryan Popple, its CEO.

The company has been in business for more than a decade and its industry standard 40 ft buses have accrued 5 million miles of revenue transit service in cities across the US. As Poppel explains in this approximately 30-minute interview with EV World publisher Bill Moore, for the first five years it was a research and development company. In the last five years, Popple stressed its become a commercial scale-up company supplying buses that, depending on battery configuration, can travel 175-200 miles on a single change on its 440kWh battery pack. The average diesel transit bus typically operates about 130 miles per day.

The company delivered its first bus in 2011 to Reno, Nevada’s transit agency. The bulk of its at the moment are operated by agencies mainly in California, but also in Massachusetts and Alaska, providing they are definitely not “sunshine patriots.” Transit agencies are investigating shifting to electric because of the potential operational savings. Popple explained that based on accumulated operational data over the last five years, agencies are saving some $40,000 in fuel costs and $15,000 in parts and maintenance savings per bus per year. That works out, according the Popple, to represent a cost savings over the traditional 12-year life span of a transit bus of some half a million dollars.That may help explain why the Chinese city of Shenzhen has some 16,359 in its fleet, presumably the largest e-bus fleet in the world.

As Popple pointed out and recently confirmed by Bob Lutz, vehicle electrification makes the most economic and environmental sense at the heavy vehicle end of the market, not the light duty end where the Tesla’s and Nissans and BMW’s operate.

In the USA, Proterra’s chief competitor is BYD who also designed their bus from the ground up. But even with the competition, he’s said he’d been quite happy with even a share of the 70,000 transit bus market in America. He also sees the company someday, perhaps in 10 years, becoming part of a larger heavy duty vehicle manufacturer who could buy the company with a a quarter of their annual profit. Any guesses who?

You can listen to our interview in its entirety using the embedded MP3 player below, or you download it to your favorite playback device. And be sure the Like Us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @EVisioneer.

Times Article Viewed: 12397
Originally published: 22 May 2018

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