GM to invest $6 million in Proterra battery electric bus company

Article by Christian Andrei, on June 13, 2011

GM Ventures, a unit of General Motors Co, invested $6 million in Proterra Inc., a manufacturer of electric commercial transit buses that’s based in Golden, Colo. GM Ventures will also take an undisclosed stake. It is a member of a group headed by venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers that plans to invest as much as $30 million in Proterra.

Founded in 2004, Proterra produces zero-emission, electric buses at a temporary plant located in Greenville, S.C. The vehicle can carry up to 68 passengers. When it has a full load, it returns an equivalent of about 24 miles per gallon.

This makes it about more efficient than the regular diesel bus. On a single charge, it can go as far as 40 miles. When using a fast charger, it can recharge in about 10 minutes.

Jon Lauckner, president of GM Ventures, said in a statement that this equity investment shows just how much GM is committed to electric propulsion. GM has received a lot of attention for its plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt car. GM is leaning towards electric vehicles and aims to acquire the success that Toyota Motor Corp. has been having with its Prius hybrid.

This is the seventh investment made by GM's venture capital arm that had only been set up last June with $100 million in funds. Its investments have so far ranged from $3 million to $7 million.

An area that GM has been focusing in is technologies that relate to electric and environmentally friendly vehicles. It is also looking into sensors or processors, in-car information-entertainment technologies, and "smart" or advanced materials that can boost the performance or reduce costs.

Press Release

GM Ventures Invests in Battery Electric Bus Company

General Motors Ventures LLC will invest $6 million in Proterra Inc., a leading maker of zero-emission commercial transit buses, as part of its mission to invest in next-generation technologies that support innovation in the global transportation industry.

GM Ventures is part of an investment group, led by venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers that will invest a total of $30 million in the bus manufacturer.

Proterra’s EcoRide™ BE-35 battery electric bus is averaging up to 24 mpg (diesel equivalent) in service, a more than 600-percent improvement over a typical diesel bus. Using technology developed by Proterra, the lightweight, composite-body bus recharges in about 10 minutes.

“This equity investment further demonstrates GM’s commitment to electric propulsion and supports our commitment to identify and invest in technology solutions that help advance the global transportation industry,” said Jon Lauckner, president of GM Ventures. “While this investment will help Proterra commercialize its electric bus and fast-charging technology, it also helps to address the future challenges of urban mobility.”

Proterra Inc. was founded in 2004 and is currently manufacturing buses in a temporary plant in Greenville, S.C. near Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research. Proterra’s TerraVolt™ energy storage system consists of 54-72 kWh lithium titanate battery packs that recharge in 10 minutes using the company’s roof-mounted Fast Fill™ recharging system.

Three EcoRide BE-35 buses are currently in a test fleet near Pomona, Calif., with additional buses to be added, and new buses and charging stations are also headed to San Antonio and Tallahassee, Fla., later this year. This investment allows Proterra to complete federal validation testing of its bus, roll out additional pilot fleets and complete initiatives to significantly reduce costs and increase volume production at its Greenville, S.C. manufacturing plant, which will have the capacity to produce 400 buses annually.

With up to a 40-mile range for the under 10-minute fast charge application, the EcoRide BE-35 can easily replace 80 percent of diesel buses in typical transit and shuttle use without altering schedules or passenger service. The EcoRide can also be configured for longer ranges while charging at a central location.

“With the support of GM’s automotive expertise and technology leadership, we can achieve a better, cleaner future for public transportation,” said Jeff Granato, president of Proterra. “We are proud to have General Motors on board.”

About General Motors Ventures: General Motors Ventures, LLC, is a subsidiary designed to help the company identify and develop innovative technologies in the automotive/transportation sector. General Motors Ventures, LLC, has been funded with an initial investment of $100 million, and is currently exploring equity investments in a number of auto-related technologies and business models. More information can be found at www.gmventures.com

About Proterra Inc: Headquartered in Golden, Colorado, Proterra is a leading designer and manufacturer of heavy-duty electric drive systems, energy storage systems, vehicle control systems, transit buses and fast charging stations. Proterra’s systems are scalable to all forms of commercial buses. Its ground up designs have led to the EcoRide BE-35, the world’s full size 10 minute charge transit bus that replaces conventional diesel buses on a one-for-one basis operating 24/7. Paired with the EcoRide BE-35 is Proterra’s proprietary FastFill™ charging station that docks the bus automatically and fast charges through a rooftop connection. The EcoRide BE-35 achieves between 24 miles per gallon diesel fuel equivalent fully loaded with 68 passengers – 600% better than a comparable diesel bus.

Topics: gm, investment

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