As more heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers embrace electrification, leading electric bus maker Proterra plans to provide powertrains for the industry.
Proterra launched a new venture, a Proterra Powered, to provide much of the technology it uses for its buses to builders of other heavy-duty vehicles and trucks.
“Commercial urban fleets are the best use case for EV technology,” said Ryan Popple, chief executive of Proterra, based in Burlingame, Calif.
Falling battery costs, improved electric powertrain technology and lowered maintenance costs are helping fuel the transition, he said.
In business for almost six years, Proterra has sold more than 700 buses in North America. It opened a factory in the City of Industry, just east of Los Angeles, in 2017. The plant is capable of building 400 electric buses annually in its 100,000-square-foot space. Freightliner-owner Daimler Trucks is a significant investor in the company.
With Proterra Powered, the company is expanding its business model. The goal is to help vehicle manufacturers switch to electric drivetrains. It will sell battery technology and heavy-duty charging systems and offer design consulting and charging infrastructure.
“The experience really depends on the partner,” Popple said. “Some are further along in their electrification efforts and may just be looking for one aspect of the technology to support their EV program. Others may want us to develop the vehicle with them every step of the way.”
Proterra Powered is the outgrowth of several manufacturer partnerships the bus maker established in recent years. Proterra reached a deal to provide batteries for electric buses made by the Belgian coachbuilder Van Hool in 2017. The following year it started making the battery system for electric versions of the double-deckers from British bus maker Alexander Dennis.
Last fall, Daimler Trucks invested $155 million in Proterra. The truck builder sees a growing market for green buses as public transit districts and school systems in the U.S. – and globally – move to reduce emissions.
Daimler’s Thomas Built bus division will incorporate Proterra’s battery and drivetrain technologies into its North American school buses. Electric school buses are expected to capture about 15 percent of the U.S. market by 2025, according to Navigant Research.
The partnership also extends to Daimler’s heavy-duty vehicles. The two companies said they plan to explore the electrification of select Daimler heavy-duty vehicles. Daimler will begin testing electric versions of its Cascadia heavy-duty truck at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach later this year.
Proterra has also launched Proterra Energy. It helps heavy-duty vehicle fleets transition to electric power. The service works with utilities and electricity providers to install charging equipment, identify renewable energy options and negotiate the best electricity rates.