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Proterra: Bringing Zero-Emission to the Mass Transit Industry.

Updated on June 20, 2011

Although the concept of the electric car has not fully grasped the attention of the American public thus far, the concept did get Dale Hill moving in a similar direction. Hill is the president of Proterra, an electric bus manufacturing company based out of Golden,Colorado. Proterra has applied the electric car concept to the mass transportation system with their EcoRide Battery Electric 35 buses.

The EcoRide BE 35 buses are powered by 72 kW-h lithium-ion battery packs while the liquid-cooled UQM PowerPhase motors turn the wheels. The battery packs are packaged in 550lb, 18 kW-h modular units manufactured by Altairnano. These heavy duty battery packs can charge the bus for up to 30 to 40 miles, traveling at 11 to 13 miles per hour before requiring charging. And batteries can be fully charged in just 10 minutes with Proterra’s inductive fast charging system. The charging procedure consists of the bus passing under a contact arm at a bus stop or a bus yard – just that simple and efficient.

The 35 foot EcoRide BE 35 bus can hold up to 68 passengers and rides smoothly and quietly in absence of exhausts and other noisy pollutants. It has a low-floor composite body that reduces weight of 20%-40% over conventional steel and aluminum buses, and is crash and element resistant.

Foothill Transit inWest Covina,Californiais currently test grounds for the EcoRide BE 35 buses with three active buses and two charging stations as of today at a purchase price of $5.6 million. Considering that 15% of Californian transit systems’ bus buys are mandated to be zero emission starting 2012, Foothill Transit is the most beneficial place to debut the bus in real life scenarios. The Star Metro transit system forTallahassee,Floridaand the VIA Metropolitan transit system forSan Antonia,Texashave also agreed to test buses before mass production. Proterra is looking to move beyond public transportation and to produce electric school buses, delivery vans and trucks.

According to Hill, the lifetime cost of the Proterra’s electric buses is similar to that of diesel hybrid competitors. This is great news for investors like General Motors Ventures LLC, who has invested $6 million into the company thus far.


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