Forget about Tesla and its futuristic new Gigafactory. When it comes to using electricity for transportation, the real action may lie in the polar opposite of the fancy sports car.
Municipal intracity buses may be déclassé, unloved, slow, lumbering behemoths. But they’re the workhorses of America’s transit systems. Last year, according to the American Public Transportation Association, buses hauled 5.36 billion passengers. While usage has fallen in recent years, thanks in part to the growth of light rail and subway systems, buses still account for more rides each year than heavy rail, light rail, and commuter rail combined—and for about half of all public transit trips.
Proterra, a South Carolina-based manufacturer with Silicon Valley ties, thinks it can lead the electric revolution. Fueled by the two forces that are transforming renewable and alternative energy in this country—venture capital and the U.S. government—the company has already put a few dozen electric buses on the road, with the promise of more to come. “Our technology could literally remove every single dirty diesel bus from cities,” said Proterra CEO Ryan Popple.