Proterra Catalyst Electric Bus Completes Reliability Test By King County Metro

MAY 10 2016 BY MARK KANE 30

King County Metro's All-Electric Proterra Catalyst FC Bus

King County Metro’s All-Electric Proterra Catalyst FC Bus

King County Metro's All-Electric Proterra Catalyst FC Bus

King County Metro’s All-Electric Proterra Catalyst FC Bus

Proterra’s Catalyst 40’ FC electric bus completed an accelerated durability and reliability test in the King County Metro Transit (KCM) fleet.

Over the duration of the study, the bus hauled a 97 passenger equivalent load and operated 24 hours per day, at an average of 325 miles each day (32,248 miles total), with some 1,750 fast charges along the way – the most rigorous test ever performed in the industry according to Proterra.

It pretty huge achievement, worth sharing with all the unbelievers in fleet sales around the world.

Sidenote to Proterra:  We’d suggest in the future not putting the initials “FC” on electric buses.

The Results:

Operating 24 hours per day over the 106-day period, the Proterra Catalyst vehicle achieved 32,545 total miles—nearly twice the distance of standard industry tests at Altoona.  And the bus was hauling 14,500 lbs of water ballast during the entire test period, which represents 125% of a normal full load of 77 passengers with standees.

The vehicle averaged 325 miles each day, with a maximum mileage of 572 miles in one day, and was charged more than 1,750 times during the test period.

From mid-October to the end of January 2016, the bus achieved 98% uptime.  It was out of service for only 6 days, including 3 holidays, preventative maintenance checks summing to 1 day, and 2 days of quick maintenance to resolve minor issues.  The vehicle experienced some basic wear and tear, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Proterra Battery Electric Bus Endurance Test King County Metro 2016

Proterra Battery Electric Bus Endurance Test King County Metro 2016

Fuel Economy:
Average fuel economy was 15 MPGe over this testing period, 213% more efficient than current KCM 40′ diesel buses. This is projected to improve to 18 MPGe at normal loads.
Proterra Battery Electric Bus Endurance Test King County Metro 2016

Proterra Battery Electric Bus Endurance Test King County Metro 2016

Maintenance Costs:
Total estimated cost of maintenance for this test, incl. parts & labor was approximately $0.20/mile

Proterra Battery Electric Bus Endurance Test King County Metro 2016

Proterra Battery Electric Bus Endurance Test King County Metro 2016

More videos with King County Metro electric buses here.

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30 Comments on "Proterra Catalyst Electric Bus Completes Reliability Test By King County Metro"

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Fantastic news. Given the very high percentage of electricity that derives from hydroelectric in Seattle, the carbon and general pollution savings are even more impressive.

I’d be curious to know how range was impacted by 1750 fast charges. Presumably the battery was not charged to very high levels.

Generally the concern with multiple fast charges is heat build-up; not the number of fast charge cycles. With good cooling the cells in the pack should not deteriorate any quicker than cells slow charged over a similar number of cycles.

These are LTO batteries

Titanate batteries are under appreciated.

Not at that price. And so far in EVs with battery cooling there is little drop in capacity so little to be gained going to the far more expensive LTO ones.

Impressive. 213%.

Congratulations to Proterra for this astounding achievement.

What Is “FC” mean

My best guess is “Fast Charge”

But I could be wrong…

Why do they not want it on Buses .Because it stands for Fuel Cell?? & it isn’t?..

I didn’t see FC painted anywhere on the bus. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

FC Fast Charge?

Fantastic numbers! You can’t get better advertising than this, real-world testing with record-shattering numbers. Congratulations, Proterra! This will certainly sell a lot of buses.

Mark Kane, you forgot the “punchline” to your story… at $.2o/mile for running costs it’s $.70/mile cheaper than the cheapest diesel bus. If you figure a conservative 65000 miles annually thats a savings of $45,000 PER YEAR!!!

PUNCHLINE: The Proterra can save you $50,000/year in running costs. That’s a half a million dollars over a 10 year period. Assuming a half life.
WOW! Game changer for fleets!!!

As far as I had heard, Proterra buses are great, but BYD buses cost half of that and can actually recoup price premium over CNG or diesel buses over acceptable number of years.


This is *not* a zero-sum game.

I repeat, this is *not* a zero-sum game.

There are way too many ICE buses to replace, for just one automaker.

That’s great, I just don’t see what is competitive advantage of Proterra buses from this article. Yes they are very nice and well made. But diesel bus may cost $400,000, CNG maybe $450-$500k. Proterra buses were $700k – $950k when I have last checked (they don’t put numbers on their website), production numbers at prototype level. BYD buses are $400-$600k, so business case is obvious. BYD made thousands of buses so far and are building factory for 5,000 or 10,000/year production, so they are in position to replace something for real and guarantee support for many years. You don’t want to invest millions and find out few years later that nobody can provide spare parts anymore, or it takes special order and weeks of time.

Earth to zzzzz, take 2:

Never said BYD is not better off business-wise. Obviously they rule the e-Bus world right now.

Besides, this is the made in China generation no? How do you think solar got so cheap all of a sudden?

But “not a zero sum game” also means there are plenty of niches to fill. For transit agencies hell-bent on buying a 100% born and raised American e-Bus, AFAIK Proterra is it. So they can charge a premium for the pleasure.

That said, your concern re:future service is valid. But I don’t see them going belly-up anytime soon.

Just the other day, an article here showed that the latest round of Federal low-emission bus grant netted Proterra 155 orders. That should keep them busy and funded for a while.

Proterra has a over a one year backlog of orders, and opened (or was scheduled to open) its second factory in California in the first quarter 2016, “with an initial capacity will be about 50 buses per year, with enough headroom to scale production to about 200.” This additional facility will meet the customer demand on the West Coast, and the Greenville, North Carolina facility will support orders east of the Mississippi. Proterra prices have come down a little bit, and now have a price of around $800,000 when ordered with the “maximum battery configuration.” Proterra CEO, Ryaan Poppel said the following in a 2015 interview (BTW, he is an early Tesla alumni): “[F]or most cities it’s about the total cost of ownership (TCO), managing pricing risk of fuel and reducing maintenance costs.” “Every case is different, but if you took the average transit agency in the US and deployed a Proterra vehicle against a diesel vehicle, you would see a TCO for a Proterra vehicle of about $1 million for a lifetime of operation, versus about $1.4 million for a diesel bus. That includes the upfront acquisition cost, midlife maintenance, and the fuel (electricity or diesel) it will consume.”… Read more »

Here’s a link to an interesting two part video interview with the head of sales for Proterra.

Proterra actually started out selling fool cell buses. Their first 4 buses were fuel cell. They have since switched to all electric. The sales VP, Matt Horton explains why…..

Thank you for the link

I’m surprised maintenance costs for diesel hybrid busses are more than diesel. You’d think the hybrid nature would level the load a bit and reduce wear, increase service intervals, and thus reduce maintenance costs.

With all hybrids, you’ve got two drive systems to maintain, as well as the mechanisms needed to combine them.

That will cost you.

It might simply come down to the few that require a reletively expensive battery swap.
The number of Prius vehicles with hundreds of thousands on the clock in the worlds taxi fleets clearly proves hybrid systems in general don’t really have significant reliabily issues or expenses, cabbies are pretty canny when it comes to making money out of what is a prettty tough gig.

+1. Perhaps it’s because they’re Toyotas.

As a cabbie I wouldn’t want a Fiat/Chrysler hybrid taxi, even if they gave it to me at half-price.

Btw, that makes the Volt’s achievement all the more impressive. They’ve attained Toyota-like reliability and even better, against the sordid track record of Chevy ICE cars in general.

So… will only the Eastside (Bellevue) get these babies? I hope not.

Why did they not include the cost of demand chargers for the high power needed to charge these busses quickly?


…electricity demand “charges”…this can easily be $2000/month for a 200 kW fast charger, up to $5000 per month for a 500 kW unit.

The Proterra salesman says they have back order of 130 orders. They are going to open another manufacturing plant in Los Angeles, but unlike BYD, Proterra plans to sell only in the U.S. for now.

I must say, it’s a fine looking bus…except for the electrical cord painted on the side. (just kidding)

Very good news. Other bus operators are sure to take notice. I can see the writing on the wall for ICE inner-city buses.