Proterra may not be a name you are familiar with. The Burlingame, California-based manufacturer of battery-powered buses has over 300 of its zero tailpipe emissions Catalyst buses plying transit routes in the United States.
Proterra brought one of its Catalyst buses to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) on May 22. Piloted by founder Dale Hill, TTI researchers and management, and representatives from Texas A&M University, Brazos Transit District and the Texas Department of Transportation viewed the advances in battery electric buses firsthand.
Hill said that of the more than 300 demonstrations that have been performed for transit providers across the country, all indicated a changeover to a battery fleet is imminent. “Everyone has said it’s just a matter of when,” he noted.
“Electric buses provide many benefits and are being considered in numerous areas, including here in the Bryan/College Station area,” said Katie Turnbull, TTI Executive Associate Director. “It was great to host our campus, community, and state partners on the tour and in discussions of how we collectively might move forward with electric buses in the future.”
The demonstration bus has a range of approximately 49 miles. Upon completion of a one-hour route, an autonomous on-route charging system can supply another hour’s worth of electricity with a 5-minute charge. Other models range up to 350 miles and can fully recharge in 3 to 5 hours.
The carbon-fiber-reinforced composite body of the bus saves weight and is corrosion resistant. “The body is also non-conductive. If you’re carrying 400 volts, soon to be 700 to 800 volts of electricity, you want to make sure that if there is some kind of a freak accident, that your passengers are safe,” Hill said. Each battery pack is 3 feet wide, 8 feet long and 7 inches tall. Four battery packs are mounted beneath the floor of the bus between the wheels, which aids stability and increases safety in case of a collision.
TTI Agency Director Greg Winfree was one of the passengers taking his first ride on a battery electric bus. “I was really impressed with how quiet the bus was, whether it was standing still or accelerating. Even though I was seated near the middle of the bus, I could hear Dale Hill talking while he was driving,” Winfree exclaimed.
Proterra buses are already in service or being considered in Texas’ major cities, including San Antonio, Dallas and Houston.