We’ve been aching to see large orders of electric buses in the US and Europe (not just China) for ages. While an order of 20 electric buses still not be at “China level,” that’s a pretty huge order in the US, especially for a university bus fleet.
Apparently, the University of Georgia intends to be a national leader in clean, zero-emission, smooth, quiet electric buses. It is buying them from nearby Proterra, which has a home base up in South Carolina.
The university just placed an order for 20 of Proterra’s 40′ Catalyst E2 buses with DuoPower drivetrain technology, as well as 14 of its 125 kW Proterra PCS chargers. (Those are comparable to Tesla Superchargers, but for buses.)
Based on a Proterra analysis, the University of Georgia “will displace more than 2,500,000 gallons of diesel over the vehicles’ 12-year lifespan and eliminate over 4,500,000 pounds of carbon emissions annually.” Approximately 40,000 people ride University of Georgia every day. Ridership is free.
When you look at the combined effects of the high passenger occupancy of buses and the clean electric powertrains, these buses look even much better. Twenty buses may sound small when compared to tens of thousands of electric car sales a month in the US, but what if those 40,000 people were all driving themselves, or if there were even two people to a car (higher than the national average)? Twenty electric buses go a long way to cut vehicle emissions and clean up our air.
Even if you just compare bus to bus, diesel buses to electric buses, the former have a fuel economy of ~6 MPG, whereas Proterra’s Catalyst E2 buses have a comparable metric of 24 MPGe. But that excludes the fact that diesel buses emit numerous deadly or at least harmful pollutants, and electric buses don’t.
According to Proterra, this is how the deal went down: “After receiving a $10 million grant from the GO! Transit Capital Program administered by Georgia’s State Road and Tollway Authority, the University of Georgia evaluated and tested electric bus technology to ensure students, faculty, staff and visitors received the best electric bus possible. The state of Georgia underwent a similar testing and review process and selected Proterra as a statewide vendor for electric buses, which allowed the University of Georgia to procure the 20 buses under a statewide contract.”
Proterra has long been a leader in electric bus transport. Chinese companies have much higher global sales of electric buses, and BYD sells a good number of them in North America as well, but Proterra has been keen to put a premium on top-tier tech with its products. The company’s CEO, Ryan Popple, was Senior Director of Finance at Tesla Motors once upon a time, and I think he was impressed with the quality of tech and vertical integration at Tesla and wanted to create something similar for the bus sector. It’s still a bloody battle in the young electric bus market, but Proterra wins its share of deals — and this is a big one.
Getting back to the buses, Proterra was keen to highlight the tech leadership at play here (including from the fundamental power and efficiency advantages of electric powertrains):
“All of the University of Georgia’s Catalyst E2 buses will be powered by the Proterra DuoPower drivetrain, which delivers twice the horsepower and five times the efficiency of a standard diesel engine. The DuoPower drivetrain features two electric motors that deliver an impressive 510 horsepower, accelerating a Catalyst bus from 0-20 mph in about five seconds, while also achieving an industry-leading 24.6 MPGe. In addition, the DuoPower drivetrain can propel a bus up a 26 percent grade, making it an ideal option for routes with steep hills. By combining the DuoPower drivetrain with Proterra’s market-leading battery technology and lightweight composite bus body, the Catalyst vehicle provides unparalleled performance.”
Along with those benefits, the low operating and maintenance costs can be a win for buyers. The total cost of ownership of an electric bus on the market today should generally outcompete the total cost of ownership of any fossil-powered buses. It’s genuinely not a hard purchase decision to make when you’re keeping the air clean, protecting the climate, and saving money.
Aside from the University of Georgia, Proterra has sold its Catalyst electric buses to a handful of other US universities: StarMetro/Florida State University, the University of Montana, Duke University, and Alabama A&M University.
Kudos to the University of Georgia and Proterra for their leadership on this new deal.
Who’s next to place a big order for electric buses? Have a university near you? Do the transit operators know about the benefits of electric buses? Perhaps you should check, share some details either way, and ask Proterra for a cut if they buy some buses. 😉
More Proterra stories: