Chicago Transit Orders 20 Proterra Electric Buses

JUL 7 2018 BY MARK KANE 28

The Chicago Transit Authority placed one of the biggest electric buses order for 20 Proterra Catalyst and five fast-charging stations for 5-10 minute recharges.

The $32 million contract won by Proterra is the aftermath of tests of two buses conducted since 2014, which bring $54,000 savings annually compared to a conventional vehicle ($24,000 in fuel costs, and $30,000 in maintenance costs).

“CTA has been testing two electric buses since 2014, when the agency became the first in the country to use all-electric-powered buses for regular scheduled service. Both electric buses have performed well and adeptly handled Chicago’s weather and temperatures.”

“In addition to lower emissions that benefit air quality, electric buses offer savings in fuel costs and maintenance costs. The two electric buses currently in operation have saved CTA more than $24,000 annually in fuel costs, and $30,000 annually in maintenance costs, when compared to diesel buses purchased in 2014. They also provide a quieter ride, producing noise the equivalent to a human conversation. Additionally, the buses will include new passenger information screens to show real-time travel information and other service information.”

Range of the new buses is to be 75-120 miles, because these are versions with smaller batteries that can be quickly recharged in minutes.

The Chicago Transit Authority operates a fleet of more than 1,800, so the electric fleet will be just over 1% by the end of 2020.

Transit Authority of River City (TARC) – Proterra electric bus

“Proterra, an industry leader in electric-bus manufacturing with facilities in California and South Carolina, was awarded the contract following a competitive bid process. Proterra has manufactured electric buses for more than 60 transit agencies, universities and commercial clients across the United States. CTA expects to begin receiving the first buses by the end of 2018, which will begin service along one of CTA’s busiest bus routes – the #66 Chicago route. The remaining buses are expected to arrive through 2020 and will be assigned to operate along the #66 and #124 Navy Pier routes.”

“The new bus contract also includes the installation of five electric quick-charging stations at Navy Pier, Chicago/Austin and the CTA’s Chicago Avenue garage. The units will allow charging within 5-10 minutes, allowing buses to return to service quickly. Buses can run between 75-120 miles on a single charge.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said:

“The purchase of these 20 new electric buses represents a new path for Chicago’s public transit, one that is greener, healthier and more efficient for all who live and visit our great city. This is just the latest example of the types of investments we will continue to make in the years to come, further solidifying Chicago as a world-class city that is at the forefront of modern and green technologies.”

CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr said:

“CTA is at the forefront of pursuing new technologies, including electric buses, which have performed very well—exceeding expectations and providing reliable, comfortable transportation to our customers. We are pleased to expand the number of electric buses in our fleet and demonstrate that all-electric vehicles are a viable method to build a more environmentally friendly fleet.”

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28 Comments on "Chicago Transit Orders 20 Proterra Electric Buses"

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Proterra keeps getting small orders. Here is hoping that they start getting 100+ bus orders in the near future.

Seattle has an option on 73. It’s a start.

Seattle already has a ton of them, thats where I am from.. I see them every day around redmond/bellevue

Have you riden in one?

Yes, I went for a ride when they were on trial… They are nice, I would say nicer then the BYD models I have ridden a few times.

This is the next step up in managing Chicago’s “energy transition”. The first couple of buses proved the concept works. This group of 20 may allow two routes to be fully electrified. Both routes are pretty short range for Chicago: 1. #124-Navy Pier runs from the Pier (northeast of downtown) to two of the commuter rail stations on the west side of downtown. As TwoVolts mentions below, a short, high density route right through the middle of downtown, connecting commuter rail users (ie, suburbanites mainly) to two of the major tourism draws: Navy Pier and the “Magnificent Mile” stretch of N Michigan Avenue. This is close to the same general route a private bus company already uses for Proterra buses connecting train stations to the Aon building on the east (lakeshore) side of downtown. 2. #66-Chicago Avenue is one of the shortest “main” east-west routes in the city, so range is not as much of an issue as it either slightly longer east-west streets on the South or North sides (some of the north-south routes will be the most challenging — I believe the Western Avenue route is the longest in the city, so that may be one of the… Read more »

Proterra is a small company. They are getting large enough orders to have more than they could handle.

Orders in the 100+ region could be handled by BYD, hardly by Proterra.

I hear you about Proterra not being that huge a company, today, but they are growing fast. They are up to 496 deliveries and orders. And as you note, their deliveries aren’t keeping up with their orders. But I would still prefer to see contracts go Proterra or New Flyer or Nova Bus. Keep this work here in North America.
And BYD isn’t even the biggest electric bus maker in China any longer, Yutong is. But I get the feeling BYD builds a more finished product plus they have a bigger marketing presence in North America and Europe than Yutong has.

BYD buses for the North American market are made in the US, not in China. (Same for Europe.)

I don’t think BYD ever was the biggest electric bus maker in China?…

no, they are NOT made in America. They are ASSEMBLED, and even with that, it is minor assembly.

what are you talking about? The entire chassis is assembled here, Major-minor? Whatever..

Proterra has strong financial backing and will grow quickly. BYD has had quite a few quality problems in their USA operations, that is why they did not get the contract here in Seattle.

The problem is that BYD has much strong financial backing; The chinese gov.
Yeah, some will say buffet, but he really does not provide that much finances to BYD.

That is awesome… The proterra busses are nice, I see them all over our area recently. Go GM, and BMW ventures…

When you’re walking or biking downtown and a diesel bus blows by you it’s really unpleasant. The noise, the stink, the soot. The adoption of E buses for downtowns will really improve life there. And if Proterra is really an all American company all the better for you (I’m Canadian btw) creating jobs for Americans.

I do hope the smaller batteries will hold up in the long term as they will be subject to more and deeper charge/discharge cycling which is the thing that ages them. This will offset some of the lower maintenance costs, but it’s not just about the money. It’s the quality of life!

Busses generally use LFP as a chemistry as weight and physical size isn’t as important as thermal runaway. They can be discharged to 100% and recharged very quickly and have 3 to 5 times the number of charge cycles as CNA or LNMC.
I would expect that the batteries are going to be fine.

Doesn’t Proterra use LNMC? BYD uses LFP

The numbers I have seen do not confirm that LFP really has significantly longer cycle life than NMC.

Man, try spending an hour walking in the central district of Hong Kong… Dang near suffocate on the street with all the stinky buses in between the 50+ story buildings with no air flow… Yuck!

I would like to get excited over this, but the order needs more zeros. 200 or 2000 busses. At $50,000+ savings a year, why are diesel busses still being purchased at all? China has fleets of ten thousands of battery-electric buses. Why are we still ordering 20 at a time?

Diesel buses are cheap, reliable, fuel quickly with no additional equipment and they are a known quantity. Electric buses are building sales fast, but CNG is still king. This year. 😉

Government agencies have policy and contracts that need to be met and honored. In addition I doubt that their budgets allow for 100% replacements. Going in the right direction is better than going the wrong way. I will take 1% per year and more as budget and obligations allow.

This is good. But 32 million for only 20 buses and a few charging stations seem really high

We really need this big time. Busses are still a great start in getting rid of diesel.

Especially even more so since the last thing Pruitt did before he resigned was lift the 300 cap on gliders, we are going to be back to thousands of new truck bodies/chassis with old tech polluting engines, man did I hate to see that move by him. I get it on how cheap it is to maintain old tech engines but this is a huge step backwards. Killing my grandkids future.

Need the states to put the end to gliders !

Buses are certainly the low hanging fruit to get rid of diesels.


It’s good to see the electric CTA bus resurrected after decades – thanks to advances in battery technology. The previous generation (circa 1970s) that I remember was kind of a disaster as drivers were constantly stopping to go outside and reconnect the leads to the supply wires.

The Navy Pier line is a good choice. It will be a high visibility use that will help to promote EV technology to a much wider audience (of tourists).