Proterra is developing cutting-edge electric vehicle technology that looks certain to improve efficiency in the public road transport sector.

Proterra looking to make the transit sector all-electric

Now that all eyes are on the development of connected self-driving cars, with all the changes in usage and habits they are likely to bring about, Proterra, whose CEO used to work for Tesla Motors, has set out to make the public transportation sector all-electric in no uncertain manner. “We believe it’s possible to entirely electrify the transportation network, and fast. Making clean, quiet vehicles for the public sector can be done,” argues Matt Horton, Vice President of Sales at Proterra.

The latest electric bus that Burlingame, California-headquartered Proterra has built, the Proterra Catalyst XR, is able to travel around 258 miles on a single charge. According to recent General Transit Feed Specification data, typical urban and rural bus route vehicles in the United States cover less than 200 miles a day, which would indicate that Proterra’s current technology can more than meet the country’s public transportation needs.

Le bus électrique de Proterra Proterra’s latest electric bus

Advanced technology passes the test

In real-life conditions – with the bus full of passengers, on difficult roads, or in inclement weather – the distance covered by this latest version of the battery-driven electric bus might well be rather less impressive. However, Matt Horton points out that “the technology is continuing to evolve, and our batteries are becoming ever more powerful”. In fact last year the company broke national records in 4 categories, including energy efficiency, and it continues to work on extending its range of vehicles and batteries. Proterra is already supplying some twenty local transport companies throughout the United States and its buses have to date covered over two million miles. “Transit companies are now realising that a transition is underway,” underlines Matt Horton.

La performance du bus de Proterra

A likely source of savings for smart cities

Rolling out the electric bus solution on a large scale could mean real savings for cities. Proterra estimates that a municipality could save between $400,000 and $500,000 per year by replacing its diesel-powered fleet with its electric buses, which are, claims Horton, “the most financially viable vehicles on the market today”.

At the latest Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January Ford announced plans to roll out 13 electric cars by 2020. So is Proterra likely to get interested in private vehicles as well in the longer term? “At the moment we’re focusing on everything that has to do with road transit. However, the technology, the battery system for example, could easily be transposed to other categories of vehicle. Our primary target is to replace heavy vehicles like buses and trucks, which are extremely energy hungry, because these are two areas where we can really achieve a huge amount of progress as regards energy optimisation. By contrast the private electric car is already performing relatively well in this area,” explains Matt Horton. The company recently opened a second manufacturing plant in southern California in order to meet demand, proof positive that local authorities continue to be won over by the value of advanced electric vehicles.

By Pauline Canteneur