Proterra & Daimler Team Up To Manufacture Electric School Buses

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Is there anything that makes less sense than loading children inside a diesel-powered metal tube twice a day to get them to and from school? Young lungs are especially vulnerable to diesel emissions — especially particulates. We get all fired up about Volkswagen spewing diesel exhaust fumes out of the tailpipes of its cars, but never give a thought to what comes out of the tailpipes of all those yellow school buses that crisscross the American landscape every day. Are we under the illusion that commercial diesel engines run cleaner than the diesels used in passenger cars? Silly people. Of course they’re not.

If any part of the transportation sector deserves to be electrified it is school buses. Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes Benz, is the owner of Thomas Built Buses, one of the largest school bus manufacturers in North America. In 2017, it unveiled Jouley, an electrified school bus with zero tailpipe emissions.

Recently Daimler was the lead investor in a $155 million funding round for Proterra, the American electric bus company headquartered in California. Proterra has established itself as a leading supplier of batteries and battery management systems for heavy duty vehicles. It made more sense for Daimler to partner with a recognized leader in the field than develop its own batteries and ancillary systems.

Last week at the 44th annual National Association of Pupil Transportation Conference, the two companies introduced the latest Thomas Built Saf-T-Liner eC2 electric school bus powered by Proterra. Recharging takes about 3 hours using a  J1772 Combo plug drawing 60 kW of power. That suggests the battery capacity is about 180 kWh, according to Inside EVs.

In a press release about the new buses, Ryan Popple, CEO of Proterra said, “School buses provide critical community infrastructure and are an excellent application for vehicle electrification. We’re pleased to work with an industry leader like Thomas Built Buses to unveil a high performance electric school bus that reduces our children’s exposure to diesel emissions.”

“This collaboration with Proterra supports our mission to deliver sustainable solutions to schools. We are excited to integrate Proterra’s proven electric vehicle technology into our buses, to provide safe, clean and quiet transportation for children across the country,” adds Thomas Built CEO Caley Edgerly.

The buses are being developed at the Proterra facility in Greenville, South Carolina. “Designed from the ground-up with an emphasis on safety, durability and performance, Proterra battery packs provide industry-leading energy density and proprietary battery thermal management to ensure optimal vehicle performance and safety. Proterra battery systems undergo rigorous testing and incorporate both active and passive safety systems.” the company says.

Proterra is a pioneer and innovator in heavy duty electric vehicles. It recently secured an order for 25 electric Catalyst buses for the Edmonton Transit Authority. Its collaboration with Daimler will likely see more Proterra components included in future heavy duty trucks from Daimler as the electric vehicle revolution gathers speed.


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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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