Proterra’s electric buses are on a roll. The company has sold buses to 16 transit operators around the country, from Metro LA to Seattle to Massachusetts to Florida. The recent round of Low or No Emission grants from the Federal Transit Administration funded purchases of 33 more Proterra buses.
Proterra has a smooth marketing operation – its buses tour the country on a permanent road show, demonstrating the benefits of electrification to local authorities and the public. This Earth Day, the company showed up in Charged’s home city of St Petersburg, Florida, which recently announced a goal of powering municipal operations with 100% renewable energy.
At least one county commissioner took a ride along with your correspondents, and so did representatives of the local Sierra Club, a reliable supporter of EVs. Proterra is working with PSTA, the local transit authority, to prepare an application for the next round of federal Low-No grants.
Public transit will “definitely” be the first transportation sector to go electric, Regional Sales Director Mike Hennessy told Charged. The economic benefits are indisputable – according to Proterra, one e-bus can save between $400,000 and $500,000 in fuel and maintenance costs over its typical 12-year lifetime. And funding for upfront costs is available. Most US transit agencies receive annual federal subsidies, and $55 million in Low-No grants will be awarded each year for the next five years.
Hennessy explained that transit agencies typically budget for a bus to last 12 years, so in theory one twelfth of the US fleet of around 70,000 transit buses is being changed out every year. “In 12 years [the US] could have an all-electric fleet.” Of course, anything remotely approaching that sort of timeline would mean a fat order book for Proterra (and competitors such as BYD).
Proterra may find itself with the same “good problem” that a certain other Silicon Valley automaker is facing. It already has orders for the next 14 to 15 months of production, and is building about two buses per week. When a second manufacturing facility in California comes online later this year, Proterra expects to be able to build 200 buses per year with a single shift (and a lot more if it adds additional shifts at one or both factories).