Electric bus manufacturer Proterra is reportedly done working on range. On September 4, at the Indiana Navistar Proving Grounds, one of its buses snagged the long-distance record for an electric vehicle when it drove 1,101.2 miles on a single charge, Quartz reports. The previous title was set by a one-seater German car that travelled 1,013.8 miles in 2011.
Proterra CEO Ryan Popple (formerly of Tesla) told Quartz that the company will now focus on the buses’ price. That’s a much-needed next step if Proterra wants to sell to a wider market. So far, Proterra has been mostly known for one-off sales to cities.
“It’s impressive they went 1,100 miles,” Sam Jaffe, founder and managing director at the energy consultancy Cairn ERA, told Quartz. “It doesn’t mean anything if the bus is too expensive. That has traditionally been their problem: They sell an extremely premium bus that only tends to be purchased when municipalities have grant money. That’s not a sustainable business model.”
According to Popple, though, the company is “facing more demand than it can handle, and has entered negotiations with at least half of North America’s transit agencies.” The prices for lithium ion batteries have dropped significantly since 2010, and the steeper upfront cost of the buses does level out over time, as municipalities kiss costly diesel good-bye.
Of course, diesel buses aren’t the only ones on city streets — 41 percent of all publicly owned buses actually use hybrid technology or alternative fuels — and an all-EV system might not be the most cost-effective option for the majority of U.S. cities yet.
But the operations-side dollars and cents do tend to be pretty attractive. With range anxiety behind it, the company will now hopefully be able to lower their upfront cost.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.