Proterra Opens Electric Bus Fast Charging Technology

AUG 1 2016 BY MARK KANE 14

Proterra’s Pledge to Grant Royalty-Free Access to Patents Related to Its Single-Blade Charging Technology

Proterra’s Pledge to Grant Royalty-Free Access to Patents Related to Its Single-Blade Charging Technology

Proterra’s Pledge to Grant Royalty-Free Access to Patents Related to Its Single-Blade Charging Technology

Proterra’s Pledge to Grant Royalty-Free Access to Patents Related to Its Single-Blade Charging Technology

Proterra announced it would be opening its single-blade overhead fast-charging technology on royalty-free basis, which seems like a nice gesture to its peers in the industry.

The technology was covered in three patents, which have now become available to any company…or individuals if you fancy yourself in need of a rechargeable bus.

Pledged Patents

Patent No.TitleIssue date
8324858Charging Stations for Electric VehiclesDecember 4, 2012
8829853Methods and Systems for Charging VehiclesSeptember 9, 2014
9352658Charging of Electric VehiclesMay 31, 2016

Proterra and its suppliers are also working on offering complete system for other bus manufacturers.

The opening of the overhead fast charging technology is crucial if Proterra would like to see it adopted as the industry standard (so maybe not a totally altruistic action after all).  Whether or not there are other companies interested in using the system has yet to be determined.

 Proterra electric bus and charging station

Proterra electric bus and charging station

Proterra stated that its single-blade overhead fast-charging enables to charge at 250-1000 V and up to 1,400 A.

“In a significant move intended to accelerate widespread EV technology adoption and infrastructure development, Proterra, the leading innovator in heavy-duty electric transportation, today announced it would be opening its overhead on-route fast-charging technology to the transit industry on a royalty-free basis.

With the recent issuance of foundational patents covering this technology, Proterra is now clear to offer a complete technology package to the market. Proterra will grant anyone royalty-free access to its patents covering its industry leading single-blade overhead charging design. This includes the bus-mounted, single-blade charging design and the overhead charging coupler.

Consistent with this, Proterra is working with its suppliers to open up Proterra’s single-blade overhead charging design for direct sale to third parties. Industry-wide availability of the company’s single-blade overhead charging design will advance standardization efforts and will facilitate additional innovation. For more details on Proterra’s royalty-free access to its single blade technology, see”

“With more than 2.4 million miles of revenue service across the United States, Proterra has more battery-electric buses on the road today than any other manufacturer, and the Proterra single-blade overhead fast-charge system is the most utilized on-route charging technology in the industry.

Over the past five years, public transit agencies across the country have performed more than 250,000 charging events using the Proterra single-blade overhead fast-charge system, providing these agencies with the flexibility of keeping their buses on the road all-day, and seamlessly integrating electric buses with existing route schedules. In order to meet the needs of transit operations, the single-blade vehicle coupling mechanism supports a charging voltage range of 250-1000 VDC, and can provide electrical current of up to 1400 amps, with safety taking the highest priority in these systems. Proterra’s unique technology was specifically designed to limit exposure to high voltage components, unlike catenary or third-rail solutions.”

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

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

Lee Gibson, Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County, Nevada said:

“As more and more electric buses operate on U.S. roads, it will be critical for the transit industry to have access to open technology platforms in order to effectively scale this technology and enhance the transit industry. With Proterra opening up its technology to other manufacturers, this will significantly benefit communities across the nation with this proven technology. Together they can move the industry forward.”

Ryan Popple, CEO of Proterra said:

“At Proterra, we’re focused on designing and manufacturing the safest, highest-performing EV transit solutions on the market, but we’re also determined to enhance and expand the sector as a whole. We believe that everyone benefits from open platforms and greater customer choice. We hope that this decision will encourage even more transit agencies to bring clean, quiet, emission-free vehicles to our city streets and community roadways.”

Categories: Bus, Charging

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14 Comments on "Proterra Opens Electric Bus Fast Charging Technology"

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thinks aloud…

Install single blade system in electric supercar, charge for free…


All kidding aside, what kind of authentication system does this use?
Or is there a J1772 type standard that applies to this kind of system?

I don’t know if it has any authentication at this time since only their bus can use it. But if it was needed, any type of wireless system would work, RFID, Bar-code/Q-code, etc.

Right. Why do you need authentication for charging, when only a bus equipped with a charging port of the right size and shape, and equipped to accept a very high current charge, could possibly use it?

It’s not like you can drive up in your Leaf, or your Tesla Model S, or your Ford C-Max, and plug in! (And if you did manage to do so… ZZZZZZAP! One fried EV electrical system!)

Wanna bet (-: ?
I’d be very surprised if you don’t get people trying to charge for free off these lines, once they become more common.

This does happen in developing countries…

The reason why that picture has become famous (or infamous) is precisely because you don’t see that happening every day.

If someone was to build some sort of interface that let them steal power to charge their EV, they’d do much better to build an interface for Superchargers. Those are much more widely available. Since there haven’t been any reports of that happening, why in the world would any reasonable person think it’s going to happen with a bus charging system that is far less common, far less accessible where it does exist, and far more dangerous to try to tap into?

In fact, the idea is simply absurd. If someone did manage to tap into the system, it would likely be just a showoff stunt rather than someone who actually was motivated by wanting to steal power.

The security protocol handling some sort of handshake to ensure both parties are go for 1400 amp, will in practical terms act as authentication.

Truly brave visionaries don’t care about authentication. Just do it:

What I don’t get is why are all of these buses low-density? These are single carriage, probably roughly 40 seats.

If Protera put development into vehicles that can seat over 70 for the same wheel base, like a double decker, then there would be so much interest for electric buses in places where, you know, where buses are actually popular.

London has double-decker electric buses from BYD.

There must be literally millions of bus routes around the world where double decker buses are simply not feasible due to height restrictions on all or part of the route.
The first bus you designed is probably better off being able to used (and tested) in any normal use scenario.
bespoke buses for special locations come later.

Proterra is very small company compared to e.g. BYD. I don’t know if they made even a 100 buses so far. It isn’t where you should be looking for all possible variety of product choices.

Overhead charging is a bad idea. It offers no serious advantages and plenty of serious disadvantages compared to wireless embedded into the ground: – much more expensive – subjected to wind and weather – … and cooper thiefs, vandals, accidental damage – visually intrusive (aka ugly) – only works with vehicles within a narrow range of heights (or else makes hardware even more expensive) – greater risk of electroshock accidents With wireless the hardware needed in each bus is hardly more than a coil. And the infrastructure can be completely hidden – both the wireless power transmitter and the control electronics (perhaps under a lockable hatch of some kind for ease of maintenance? not sure – we don’t do this for water pipes, but we do it for the sewer). A wireless charger will easily work with any vehicle from a Twizy to a double-decker, semi, or anything in between. It becomes more efficient the higher the power, and is nearly on par with typical copper cables already at 22 kW. It’s also likely to continue to improve for a while. I guess a conceivable advantage could be higher charging power. But then again I don’t really think it’s difficult… Read more »

High power induction is more challenging and economically unappealing.
Beside even small percent efficiency loss on a big draw is adding usage cost.
I just don’t think overhead station are a target for copper thief, specially on a very restricted and busy area.
And since all power line are already outside and expose to weather with good reliability, I don’t think it’s such a hazard.

Terawatt said:

“…I don’t really think it’s difficult to scale up wireless to half a megawatt or more.”

Only someone who knows very little about the engineering involved, and the practical limitations of wireless charging, would make such an assertion.

One practical limit is the size of the pickup loop. The wire coil can’t be larger in diameter than the width of the vehicle. Higher current will require higher voltage, larger pickup loops, or both. And of course, high voltage presents its own engineering challenges.