By Steve Hanley
Maybe you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about buses, but Proterra does. In a way, it could be the Tesla of large motorized people movers. Why? Because like Tesla, instead of stuffing a bunch of batteries into an existing chassis, the Proterra designers and engineers design their buses from the ground up to be electric.
In testing recently at Michelin’s Laurens Proving Grounds in South Carolina, a Proterra Catalyst XR equipped with eight battery packs totaling 257 kWh of energy drove 258 miles on a single charge. That’s important because, according to General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data, typical urban and rural bus routes in the United States cover fewer than 200 miles a day.
That means bus operators who use the Proterra Catalyst XL buses don’t need to spend a lot of money building charging infrastructure to support them when they are out running their routes. They can complete their journeys and be recharged overnight when they get back to their base of operations.
“The purpose-driven Catalyst design affords the best efficiency rating ever for a 40-foot transit bus, at 22 MPG equivalent,” said John Sleconich, Chief Engineer at Proterra. “Proterra buses are the only mass transit vehicle built from the ground up as an electric vehicle. With a unique aerodynamic body made from carbon fiber and advanced composite materials, we are able to reduce mass for maximum efficiency.”
The Catalyst XR’s low operational cost per mile compared to diesel, CNG, and diesel-hybrid buses means customers will experience dramatically reduced maintenance costs. Over the 12-year service life of a typical bus, those savings can amount to as much as $135,000 per vehicle on top of the savings realized from lower fuel costs. The environmental benefits are also significant. Already, Proterra customers have logged more than 1.3 million miles of revenue service, keeping more than 4.7 million pounds of emissions of carbon emissions out of the atmosphere.
“The U.S. is quickly waking up to the economic, environmental, and performance benefits of zero-emission electric buses,” said Proterra CEO, Ryan Popple. “While diesel buses pollute our communities and are increasingly more costly to own and operate, Proterra is pushing the bounds of EV technology and steadily driving down costs. Achieving this range is validation for our technology and gives us the confidence that Proterra is capable of what we initially set out to accomplish – replacing every fossil fuel bus in the United States with a fully electric one. ”