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.