Former Tesla Exec Is Head Of Electric Bus Maker Proterra

While it doesn’t grab headlines, electrifying mass transit is critical.

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Posted on EVANNEX on July 28, 2020 by Charles Morris

When it comes to electric vehicles, passenger cars grab most of the headlines—especially fast and glamorous ones made by a certain California company. However, electric buses represent one of the most exciting stories in the EV world—electrifying buses offers a huge opportunity to reduce emissions, and cut costs for transit agencies. 

Tesla recently teased a possible electric bus on the company’s Q2 earnings call. And already several manufacturers are active in the electric bus market, including Chinese giant BYD and Europe’s Volvo Buses. Legacy US bus-makers such as Gillig and New Flyer are also developing e-buses. Perhaps the most intriguing player in this space, however, is Proterra, which was founded in Colorado in 2004, and now has facilities in California and South Carolina. 

A recent video from Bloomberg Green includes an interview with Ryan Popple, Proterra’s co-founder and Executive Director. In his youth, Popple served in the US Army, and got a first-hand view of how our country depends on volatile regions of the world for its energy (as did the young Marc Tarpenning, who did a stint as a consultant in Saudi Arabia). In 2007, he joined Tesla, where he saw a chance to take some concrete action to secure energy independence and clean up the environment. Popple worked at Tesla until 2010, ending up as Senior Director of Finance.

After years of pilots in many cities around the world, transit agencies in the US and Europe are now starting to place substantial orders for electric buses. However, as usual, we’re behind the curve. China already has 420,000 e-buses in operation, whereas Europe has around 2,000. The US is a laggard, with only about 600 on the street—a mere 0.1% of the country’s total bus fleet.

Proterra has sold over 900 buses to transit agencies in the US and Canada, and it has big plans for the future—it has begun branching out into electric school buses (with partner Thomas Built Buses) and delivery trucks (with Freightliner), and is working on plans for an IPO.

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Written by: Charles Morris; Source: Bloomberg Green

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