Tesla quickly racked up about 400 truck reservations from big haulers like UPS and Anheuser-Busch through December. But as those deposits arrive, fast-growing startup Proterra, packed with ex-Tesla employees, got an order for 25 battery buses from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation in December, each priced at about $700,000, as the agency converts a 359-vehicle fleet to electric. That complements the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s recent $138m order for electric buses from New Flyer and China-based BYD as it too replaces thousands of natural gas vehicles.
“Bus transit, because of the defined route, the limited daily mileage, the number of miles driven per year, all of that makes it a perfect application for battery electric which is why that market is going to go 100-percent electric faster than any of the other transportation sectors out there,” Matt Horton, Proterra’s chief commercial officer told Forbes. The private California company is approaching 500 sales and recently added a Los Angeles factory to supply West Coast customers.
Electric buses able to travel up to 200 miles a day in city driving already account for about 10 percent of U.S. transit agency orders in 2017, and rivals Proterra and BYD expect those sales to keep growing as the performance of their vehicles improves and operating costs stay well below that of diesel and CNG models. Even with Musk’s prodigious marketing talents, battery-electric semi-trucks will take longer to catch on, assuming that Tesla’s Semi actually launches on schedule in 2019 or 2020.
“Long-haul trucking is the most challenging duty cycle for a battery-electric vehicle to perform, given the long distances required at freeway speeds with a heavy payload in tow,” Horton said.
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