Transit vehicles today are mostly powered by gasoline, diesel, and CNG, while electric batteries only represent about 1% of the market. It is currently a small part of the industry, but it’s also the fastest growing fuel source in the sector and it’s starting to become highly competitive and cheaper.
Electric bus maker Proterra is ramping up production and currently claims to be cheaper than diesel and CNG. It leads CEO Ryan Popple to make a bold prediction that battery-powered buses will dominate the transit bus market within 10 years.
More specifically, he says that the majority of new bus sales will be electric by 2025 and all new bus sales to transit agencies will be electric by 2030.
Proterra has so far only delivered a few hundred all-electric buses, but they have been announcing several major deals lately, like 73 buses from King County’s Metro Transit, that seem to indicate there’s a shift in the transit industry.
Some transit agencies are making commitments to transition their entire fleets to electric propulsion and companies like BYD, Proterra, and others, are fighting over the contracts.
Earlier this year, Proterra managed to secure a large $140 million round of financing and they are using the money to ramp up production in order to complete those new contracts.
The company recently hired Tesla’s former Vice President of Manufacturing to lead a production expansion at their facility in Greenville, South Carolina, and their new factory in Los Angeles County in order to satisfy the increasing demand.
Popple is also a former Tesla executive. He was convinced to work in the electrification of transport as a mean to reduce America’s dependence on petrol from the Middle East. It’s something that as a former US Army officer, like several other early employees at Tesla, came to him after witnessing first-hand the impact of the US presence in the region. For example, Tesla’s longtime Vice-President of Business Development, Diarmuid O’Connell, has a similar story for his reason behind joining Tesla.
In a recent podcast interview with Green Tech Media, Popple explained his path from the army to Tesla and finally to Proterra. It’s an interesting interview in which he explains his prediction for the electrification of the transit industry.