With Proterra Investment, Daimler Pushes Electric Bus Development

September 19, 2018 by Jerry Hirsch, @Jerryhirsch

Daimler Trucks bets heavily on electric bus development by investing in electric bus maker Proterra.

The German automaker sees a growing market for green buses as public transit districts and school systems in the U.S. and around the world move to reduce emissions.

Daimler is leading a $155-million investment round in the Burlingame, Calif., company. Tao Capital Partners, a San Francisco investment firm, is the other lead investor.

The Proterra investment will allow both companies to grow their footprints in the U.S. and overseas, Martin Daum, global head of Daimler Trucks and Buses, said at the IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Hanover, Germany, on Wednesday.

“We aren’t just the leading supplier of conventional truck and buses; when it comes to electrification we also want to be the leader,” Daum said.

Proterra and Daimler said they had an agreement to also explore the electrification of select Daimler heavy-duty vehicles. Daimler is already set to test electric versions of its Cascadia heavy-duty truck at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

One of the first ventures of the Daimler-Proterra alliance will be to bring Proterra’s proven battery and drivetrain technologies to the North American school bus market via Daimler’s Thomas Built Buses division.

“We expect the cooperation with Proterra to deliver additional impetus for the development of heavy-duty commercial vehicles with electric drive,” Daum said.

Electric buses are expected to capture about 15 percent of the U.S. market by 2025, according to Navigant Research.

“We have made several investments in disruptive transportation companies and believe electric vehicle technology is the future of mass transit fleets,” said Nick Pritzker, Tao Capital’s chairman.

California is the leading state for electric bus adoption. More than three dozen of the 163 public transit agencies in the state were operating 132 battery-electric and fuel cell electric buses. Transit agencies have an additional 655 electric buses either on order, awarded or planned, the California Air Resources Board says. Los Angeles has said that it would go fully electric by 2030.

The state has spent $25 million to incentivize school districts to replace conventional school buses with low- or zero-emission vehicles.

Proterra opened a factory in the City of Industry, just east of Los Angeles, last year. It said the plant would be capable of building 400 electric buses annually in its 100,000-square-foot space.

“As car culture wanes and more communities embrace 21st century, multi-modal transit, California has a unique opportunity to lead the country in this market transition,” Ryan Popple, Proterra’s chief executive, told Trucks.com.

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