With a gallon of diesel costing a dollar more than it did a year ago, bus companies are getting gouged every time one of their fleet members pulls up to the tank.
Enter Proterra, an electric-bus startup company that uses relatively small, low-cost lithium titanate battery packs that are intended to be frequently recharged at rapid-charging stations in 10 minutes of less.
Proterra’s EcoRide BE35 bus only has a range of 30 to 40 miles per charge, which makes it more practical as a transit bus that runs predictable routes and can regularly pull into FastFill Charging Stations.
As they pull into these fully automated charging stations, buses communicate wirelessly with an overhead charging arm that links the bus to a high capacity charger without driver involvement. As passengers load and unload, the bus is rapidly charged in 5-10 minutes.
Proterra CEO Jeff Granato believes each bus will save a transit company $600,000 in fuel costs over the 12-year life span of the vehicle, plus another $70,000 to $95,000 in maintenance costs. The bus costs about 18 cents per mile to charge, compared with about $1 a mile for diesel fuel. In the long run, Granato says these savings make the total cost of the electric bus comparable to that of a diesel bus even thought the electric bus is more expensive up front. (The company has not yet released how much the electric bus costs.)
CURIOSITY.COM: When Was the First Electric Car Built?
Proterra has raised $30 million in new funding, including $6 million from GM Ventures, which the company plans to use to increase production capacity. So far, Proterra has manufactured 10 buses, which are being used by transit agencies in California and Texas.