GM Invests in Electric Bus Maker Proterra

The venture capital arm of General Motors is putting $6 million into a Colorado-based company that makes electric buses that have the potential to replace 80% of diesel buses used in typical transit situations.

General Motors Ventures LLC is part of an investment group led by venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers  (KPCB) that will invest a total of $30 million in Proterra.

Proterra’s EcoRide BE-35 battery electric bus averages 24 mpg (diesel equivalent) in service, a more than 600% improvement over a typical diesel bus.

Using technology developed by Proterra, the lightweight, composite-body bus recharges in about 10 minutes.

With up to a 40-mile range for the under 10-minute fast charge application, the EcoRide BE-35 can replace 80% of diesel buses in typical transit and shuttle use without altering schedules or passenger service, the company says. The EcoRide can also be configured for longer ranges when it charges at a central location.

Proterra was founded in 2004 and is manufacturing buses in a temporary plant in Greenville, S.C. near Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research. Its TerraVolt energy storage system consists of 54-72 kWh lithium titanate battery packs that recharge in 10 minutes using the company’s roof-mounted Fast Fill recharging system.

Three EcoRide BE-35 buses are currently in a test fleet near Pomona, Calif., with additional buses to be added, and new buses and charging stations are also headed to San Antonio and Tallahassee, Fla. later this year.

The $30 million investment will allow Proterra to complete federal validation testing of its bus, roll out additional pilot fleets and complete initiatives to reduce costs and increase volume production at its Greenville, S.C. manufacturing plant, which will have the capacity to produce 400 buses annually.

"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," says Jon Lauckner, president of GM Ventures. "While this investment will help Proterra commercialize its electric bus and fast-charging technology, it also helps to address the future challenges of urban mobility."

General Motors Ventures has made two other high profile investments in electric vehicle technology in the last year. In January, the company invested in advanced lithium-ion battery technology initially developed at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Lab.

And in August 2010, GM Ventures commited funding to Bright Automotive, a car company launched from Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) with the goal of building plug-in hybrid vehicles for commercial and government fleets. 

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Comments on “GM Invests in Electric Bus Maker Proterra”

  1. raymondj1

    I always wondered if GM was ever going to get back into the Transit Bus sector, hopefully in the near future, they can make this bus as popular and overall reliable as the GM Fishbowls and the RTS’s of the early 70’s – late 90’s.


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