GM Invests In Fast-Charging EV Bus Firm Proterra

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Thread: GM Invests In Fast-Charging EV Bus Firm Proterra

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    GM Invests In Fast-Charging EV Bus Firm Proterra

    GM Invests In Fast-Charging EV Bus Firm Proterra
    Left Lane News
    June 13, 2011
    by Mark Kleis

    There are a few limitations of current battery technology that are largely inhibiting the widespread adaptation of the technology in vehicles, with battery capacity, weight and recharge times being among the top concerns.

    At Proterra, it appears a viable solution has been found for public transport buses that enables a swift 10-minute recharge time, prompting a $30 million investment from investment group Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, led by General Motors Ventures, LLC, which contributed $6 million.

    The unique EcoRide BE-35 battery electric bus, made by Proterra, is averaging 24 miles per gallon equivalent (diesel equivalent) in real-world service, which represents an astounding 600 percent increase compared to a traditional diesel bus. That means operating the BE-35 costs approximately 18 cents per mile, compared to anywhere from $3.27 to $4.50 for CNG, diesel or hybrid buses.

    This same bus is also capable of a remarkably quick 10-minute recharging time for 40 miles of range. GM says that with a range and recharge time like that, the BE-35 could replace about 80 percent of traditional buses currently in use in the U.S. without any changes to schedules.

    The BE-35 uses Proterra’s own TerraVolt energy storage system, which consists of 54-72 kWh lithium titanate battery packs. The battery packs are part of a roof-mounted Fast Fill recharging system, which means no seating space or luggage capacity is compromised as a result. The batteries themselves are stored underneath the floor of the bus.

    “This equity investment further demonstrates GM’s commitment to electric propulsion and supports our commitment to identify and invest in technology solutions that help advance the global transportation industry,” said Jon Lauckner, president of GM Ventures.

    Thanks to the recent infusion of cash, Proterra plans to complete the costly federal validation testing, as well as to establish additional pilot fleets and work on ways to significantly reduce production costs. Proterra also hopes to increase production at its Greenville, S.C., manufacturing plant, which it hopes will have the capacity to produce 400 buses annually.

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    Re: GM Invests In Fast-Charging EV Bus Firm Proterra

    Charging time is the number one problem holding back the electric car. If Proterra has indeed found the technology to recharge in ten minutes (without damaging the battery, and without tremendous costs) then they have found the holy grail. Electric drive will then become the new "normal", and gasoline powered cars will become "that silly way we used to drive".

    I am skeptical though. I'd have thought that an advancement of this magnitude would be the news of the century, not just a minor article suggesting that "a company may invest in Proterra".
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    Re: GM Invests In Fast-Charging EV Bus Firm Proterra

    If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

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    Re: GM Invests In Fast-Charging EV Bus Firm Proterra

    I've worked for Ohio State Transportation and Parking Services in the bus department for the past four months, recently started driving buses, and I can tell you right now that 10 minutes of down time to drive only 40 miles would never fly with us.
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    Re: GM Invests In Fast-Charging EV Bus Firm Proterra

    Quote Originally Posted by FenwickHockey65 View Post
    I've worked for Ohio State Transportation and Parking Services in the bus department for the past four months, recently started driving buses, and I can tell you right now that 10 minutes of down time to drive only 40 miles would never fly with us.
    I think this could work in a scenario where the buses in question would be used for quick trips and shuttle service like at airports and such. The Proterra bus itself is only 35' in length and it appears to use a composite body structure that has not been Altoona tested FWIK. From the looks of things it doesn't seem very practical for line haul service and those last gen Dodge Charger head lights really don't do very much for the front fascia IMO.


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    Re: GM Invests In Fast-Charging EV Bus Firm Proterra

    Quote Originally Posted by FenwickHockey65 View Post
    I've worked for Ohio State Transportation and Parking Services in the bus department for the past four months, recently started driving buses, and I can tell you right now that 10 minutes of down time to drive only 40 miles would never fly with us.
    How long is your route?
    If you have to go back to the yard to recharge, I can see 10 minutes being way too long for limited range. If you could do it where the lines cross and the buses set while waiting for an intersecting line/driver break time, it would be much less inconvenient.
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    Re: GM Invests In Fast-Charging EV Bus Firm Proterra

    Quote Originally Posted by CrunkedRL View Post
    I think this could work in a scenario where the buses in question would be used for quick trips and shuttle service like at airports and such. The Proterra bus itself is only 35' in length and it appears to use a composite body structure that has not been Altoona tested FWIK. From the looks of things it doesn't seem very practical for line haul service and those last gen Dodge Charger head lights really don't do very much for the front fascia IMO.

    it looks cartoonish...

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    Re: GM Invests In Fast-Charging EV Bus Firm Proterra

    Quote Originally Posted by 4x4x4doors View Post
    How long is your route?
    If you have to go back to the yard to recharge, I can see 10 minutes being way too long for limited range. If you could do it where the lines cross and the buses set while waiting for an intersecting line/driver break time, it would be much less inconvenient.
    A Campus Loop North/South is probably something like 5 miles. Meaning I would have to get a recharge every 8 loops, not taking into account running things like the A/C system. Setting up recharging stations along routes could be a possibility, but 10 minutes of downtime is unacceptable for us.

    Believe me, if you're early and sitting there for just 3 minutes waiting to get back on schedule, it feels like an eternity. Especially if you have passengers.

    Plus the fact that it's only 35 feet. Our 35 foot 2001 Gilligs run only two routes simply because demand for the other routes requires the additional five feet of our 40 foot buses.
    Last edited by FenwickHockey65; 06-14-2011 at 12:03 PM.
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    Re: GM Invests In Fast-Charging EV Bus Firm Proterra

    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainDan View Post
    Charging time is the number one problem holding back the electric car. If Proterra has indeed found the technology to recharge in ten minutes (without damaging the battery, and without tremendous costs) then they have found the holy grail.
    Nah, charging time has not been the holy grail in batteries for at least 5 years now, COST is the number one issue, and number two would be durability for the economic life of the car 10 years or 150k miles.

    There are 3 companies making lithium-titanate batteries like Proterra is using, a different (cheaper, and higher capacity) chemistry is lithium iron phosphate like A123 uses.. in some of their cells can routinely be charged to 100% in less than 15 minutes. The Chinese have mastered the iron chemistry and are now producing very low cost batteries, about 2/3 cheaper than what GM is using... dont ask for a warranty

    Most people drive less than 40 miles a day, then the car spends 8 hours sitting at work and then back home where it sits in the garage all night.. slow charging is fine. Get a Prius for your second familiy car so you can drive 250 miles to visit granma twice a year.

    Cost is coming down quickly, batteries can now compete with diesel or gasoline (heavy taxation) in Europe on an equal cost basis, and in a few year they will do the same in the US.

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    Re: GM Invests In Fast-Charging EV Bus Firm Proterra

    Ummm... how many times have we defended limited new technologies by saying that they have to start somewhere, and that technologies like this can only improve with time?!? Anyone think that the Volt as-is is the final generation of Voltec that GM will do? I think that it is awesome that Proterra is already this far along... faster charging an bigger buses will come... I'm just glad that the people in charge are more forward-thinking than some of you!
    Last edited by paul8488; 06-14-2011 at 12:49 PM.
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    Re: GM Invests In Fast-Charging EV Bus Firm Proterra

    Quote Originally Posted by paul8488 View Post
    Ummm... how many times have we defended limited new technologies by saying that they have to start somewhere, and that technologies like this can only improve with time?!? Anyone think that the Volt as-is is the final generation of Voltec that GM will do? I think that it is awesome that Proterra is already this far along... faster charging an bigger buses will come... I'm just glad that the people in charge are more forward-thinking than some of you!
    I'm sure it will improve. I'm just saying that this is just like a Leaf, only bigger. Same limitations, same impracticality. If it had 200 miles of range and could recharge in 5 minutes, then we might be getting somewhere. But 40 miles is unacceptable for us, and Ohio State's operation is relatively small compared to most city transit systems.

    It will do for one-way shuttles to the airport provided the airport has charging infrastructure. But not much else.
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    Re: GM Invests In Fast-Charging EV Bus Firm Proterra

    Quote Originally Posted by FenwickHockey65 View Post
    Setting up recharging stations along routes could be a possibility, but 10 minutes of downtime is unacceptable for us.

    Believe me, if you're early and sitting there for just 3 minutes waiting to get back on schedule, it feels like an eternity.
    Doesn't seem like that big a problem. If overall ownership/operating costs are significantly lower than what you currently run, you could simply have more buses with a reduced duty cycle for each bus and still come out ahead...

    Quote Originally Posted by HermPerez View Post
    Most people drive less than 40 miles a day, then the car spends 8 hours sitting at work and then back home where it sits in the garage all night.. slow charging is fine. Get a Prius for your second familiy car so you can drive 250 miles to visit granma twice a year.
    Why do you need a Prius -- just get a Volt and you can do electric-only commutes AND drive to grandma's.
    Last edited by emh; 06-14-2011 at 01:58 PM.
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    Re: GM Invests In Fast-Charging EV Bus Firm Proterra

    Quote Originally Posted by emh View Post
    Doesn't seem like that big a problem. If overall ownership/operating costs are significantly lower than what you currently run, you could simply have more buses with a reduced duty cycle for each bus and still come out ahead...
    But that's the problem...there's a chance it won't be.

    For example, we're getting two brand-new hybrid Gilligs this summer...and we're already expecting to spend more on maintaining them than any other bus in our fleet.

    Granted, a pure EV isn't as complicated as a hybrid, but it still brings up some maintenance issues.
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    Re: GM Invests In Fast-Charging EV Bus Firm Proterra

    Quote Originally Posted by HermPerez View Post
    Nah, charging time has not been the holy grail in batteries for at least 5 years now, COST is the number one issue, and number two would be durability for the economic life of the car 10 years or 150k miles.

    There are 3 companies making lithium-titanate batteries like Proterra is using, a different (cheaper, and higher capacity) chemistry is lithium iron phosphate like A123 uses.. in some of their cells can routinely be charged to 100% in less than 15 minutes. The Chinese have mastered the iron chemistry and are now producing very low cost batteries, about 2/3 cheaper than what GM is using... dont ask for a warranty

    Cost is coming down quickly, batteries can now compete with diesel or gasoline (heavy taxation) in Europe on an equal cost basis, and in a few year they will do the same in the US.
    No, not at all. As you said, battery costs are already getting close to the costs for an ICE powertrain, and are still dropping - so that isn't the primary issue. Durability isn't the primary issue either. All the hybrid cars on the market, and even the Volt and Leaf already warranty their battery for 8 to 10 years.

    The ability to charge a battery with enough power to move a car (or bus) around for a reasonable distance, within a minimal amount of time (ten minutes - roughly equivalent to a gasoline fillup is the target) isn't here. And that is precisely what is the root of "range anxiety", which is the biggest hurdle to purely electric transportation. And again, this grail needs to be accomplished without destroying the battery, or costing a great deal more than the existing batteries.

    Quote Originally Posted by HermPerez View Post
    Most people drive less than 40 miles a day, then the car spends 8 hours sitting at work and then back home where it sits in the garage all night.. slow charging is fine. Get a Prius for your second familiy car so you can drive 250 miles to visit granma twice a year.
    I think we can pretty much assume that most people will need to exceed the range (40 miles, 100 miles, whatever) of a pure-electric car (like a Leaf) way more than twice a year. Either through a pre-planned trip to Granma, or an unexpected need for an additional few miles which just aren't in the battery. And if you want to have a second car to cover that (and again that only covers pre-planned trips) you are going for one very expensive method of transportation. Such as having two $30,000 cars (one electric, one ICE) where you otherwise would be having only one $30,000 ICE car - if you are in a two-car household, you'd need a third car. And when that unexpected need comes up while you are out with the electric car, no matter how many "extra" cars you have, they will be back at home, pretty much worthless to you at that point. Unless you're towing that spare car around with you everywhere you go.

    So yes, battery charge time is the issue. If Proterra does have the technology to do it, again without destroying the battery (yes, of course, that would mean we're asking for a warranty) or raising it's cost significantly, then they could be sitting on a gold mine, and I'm just very surprised that it isn't getting more press, and a ton more investment.
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    Re: GM Invests In Fast-Charging EV Bus Firm Proterra

    Great article, thanks for posting. Sounds like a real winner.

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