Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Joins Proterra

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Originally published on Gas 2.

Ray LaHood was President Obama’s transportation secretary from his inauguration in 2009 until 2013, and famously said that a national system of high-speed trains should be our generation’s legacy to our children. He’s a visionary, and we’re big fans of some of his ideas. Now, however, we get to be fans of Proterra, a maker of full-size electric buses that can be quickly recharged while the bus is parked at a station, waiting for passengers to get on and off.

The electric bus designed by Proterra is pretty neat on its own, even without Hood. The 68-passenger machine features a rear-mounted electric power train comprising a traction motor, transmission, motor controller, dryers, etc.- removes entirely for easy access maintenance, or to swap in the event of a breakdown. That alone should significantly cut down on maintenance costs for municipal garages, while the reduction in harmful diesel particle emissions should improve air quality and cut down on the state’s fuel bills to the tune of nearly half a million dollars over the life of each bus.

Key to the success of the Proterra is its ability to back up its quick-charging claims, however, and it seems to have those tech ducks in a row. Proterra is using lithium titanate that should be able to fully recharge in less than 10 minutes. Since the buses will be stopped one or two minutes at every stop, anyway, the vehicles should stay mostly charged all the time. Proterra predicts that these batteries, even charged several times every few hours, will still last eight years or more. This claim is backed up by the first long-term test results Tesla has had with its Roadster.

In addition to the batteries, the electric bus builder has also developed a 100% automated charging system. Mounted at scheduled stops, the bus drives under an overhead arm that connects bus to charger in a manner that will be instantly familiar to airplane aficionados.

It’s all impressively thought out, and I’m not the only one who thinks so, apparently. “I believe in the need for dependable, lower cost, more sustainable transit options,” says LaHood. “EV is the future of transit, and I am pleased to lend my knowledge and support to building this future with Proterra – the clear industry leader and the only American EV bus manufacturer.”

Good on him, then. Here’s hoping LaHood and Proterra enjoy great success in the future, and do their part to cut down on foreign oil and harmful carbon emissions sooner than later.

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