Proterra Teams With Thomas Built For Electric Schools Buses

OCT 30 2018 BY MARK KANE 28

Proterra goes from green to yellow with its buses.

The cooperation between Proterra and Thomas Built Buses progressed quickly after Daimler (parent company to Thomas Built Buses) invested in Proterra.

The two unveiled at the 44th Annual National Association of Pupil Transportation (NAPT) Conference the Saf-T-Liner eC2 Jouley electric school bus powered by Proterra.

The vehicle can be recharged using J1772 Combo plug (CCS Combo 1) at 60 kW in about three hours, which suggests battery capacity of about 180 kWh.

Thomas Built Buses presented Jouley in its first attempt to electrify school buses in late 2017, but probably at the small scale of school buses it was a better deal to share powertrain and batteries with a transit bus manufacturer like Proterra.

Hopefully, more electric school buses are coming soon.

“The Saf-T-Liner® eC2 electric school bus powered by Proterra represents Proterra’s entrance into a new commercial vehicle sector, the school bus market, and further demonstrates the mass-market shift towards electrification of commercial transportation solutions. The eC2 bus powered by Proterra is being co-developed with Thomas Built Buses in Proterra’s Greenville, SC manufacturing facility.Thomas Built Buses is a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America. In September, Proterra announced a collaboration with Daimler, the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles, to explore opportunities to incorporate Proterra’s electric vehicle technology into Daimler’s commercial vehicle platforms. The Saf-T-Liner eC2 bus powered by Proterra is the first of these vehicles to be unveiled.

Designed from the ground-up with an emphasis on safety, durability and performance, Proterra battery packs provide industry-leading energy density and proprietary battery thermal management to ensure optimal vehicle performance and safety. Proterra battery systems undergo rigorous testing and incorporate both active and passive safety systems. The eC2 bus powered by Proterra can be charged with industry-standard J1772 CCS plug-in charging technology, including the Proterra 60kW charging system, in about three hours.”

Caley Edgerly, Thomas Built Buses CEO said:

“This collaboration with Proterra supports our mission to deliver sustainable solutions to schools. We are excited to integrate Proterra’s proven electric vehicle technology into our buses, to provide safe, clean and quiet transportation for children across the country.”

Ryan Popple, Proterra CEO said:

“School buses provide critical community infrastructure and are an excellent application for vehicle electrification. We’re pleased to work with an industry leader like Thomas Built Buses to unveil a high performance electric school bus that reduces our children’s exposure to diesel emissions.”

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28 Comments on "Proterra Teams With Thomas Built For Electric Schools Buses"

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Wow – very exciting! It seems like the perfect application with pickup in the morning, charging mid day, and ride home in the afternoon with charging overnight. I sure hope this expands. Kids don’t need to breath in diesel fumes.

Another example of a foreign company providing manufacturing jobs in America. Hasn’t anyone noticed the number of foreign manufacturers in the South East.
Isn’t Foxconn a Chinese manufacturers of cell phones building a cell phone manufacturing plant in Wisconsin.

What? Proterra is a US-based company. Am I missing a detail about them?

But a division of Daimler – I think that is what he is referring to.

Yes that’s what a read didn’t know before that.

Just to clarify, Thomas Built Busses is a division of Daimler — not Proterra. Daimler just took a minority stake in Proterra recently.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

Proterra is NOT a division of Daimler Benz. The German firm is an investor in Proterra, along with several other investors.

I think you could also say it is a GM company, since GM is as much an investor as Daimler is. Maybe Thomas?
And Governor Granholm of Michigan is a Proterra board member so they are playing political games to get this company to work, but in this case I think they need to do whatever it takes. And if the ex-governor of the state that is associated more closely to the auto industry than any other is helpful, by bringing contacts to the board table, bring it.

The Foxconn debacle is draining dollars from Wisconsin along with water from their supplies.

Exactly – most are driven for about 3 hours in the morning and the same in the afternoon with at least 4 hours downtime in between. Perfect application for “short range” heavy duty EV.
Once the fleet gets converted, they can build the drop off lane “inside” the school so teachers don’t have to stand out in the rain/sleet/snow herding kids off/on the buses.

Good point F150 – I forgot about the benefit of having them allowed for pick up in a dry, concealed, conditioned space! Cool

However, most of themm use an auxiliary , diesel heater to provide heat for the occupants. It would take a lot of battery to warm up a bus on a freezing (sub-32 degree Fahrenheit) day.

I doubt your “most of them” claim. The various electric bus announcements we have seen recently generally claim that they don’t need auxiliary heaters, or only as an optional feature for extreme climates. Daimler in particular was stressing that point.

Interesting concept. I presume that could apply to pretty much any building. Valet parking (self driving feature to park?) by pulling up to the front of the building in what amounts to a carport.

If they cared about weather protection, the could just use some sort of half-enclosed canopy, like traditional bus (or train) stations tend to do… I don’t think the power train is a particular obstacle for that. More likely a matter of costs.

This is great news. Schools spend a ton of money on fuel and maintenance for ICE buses, especially in rural areas, and many are still diesel. Going electric might cost a little more up front, but it would reduce TCO while being better for the kids and for the environment. Everyone wins.

And schools can also add solar to greatly lower their electricity costs and in fact most school districts in California have already done this.

True. I live in CA and many schools have done this at the school sites. Usually buses are dispatched from a bus barn location, but no reason they couldn’t install solar there also.

Also, some school districts have switched to CNG buses, but electric would still be cheaper and cleaner.

Solar is still pretty pricey, and impractical for much of the country.

But solar pricing is steadily improving and as the price improves it increases the regions of the US that can install solar arrays and see them pay for themselves in a reasonable amount of time.
Eventually the price of solar arrays will stabilize and they won’t improve appreciably over a several year period, but we aren’t there yet and hopefully we won’t be there for several years.
China’s pricing policy on solar cells is kind of the joker in the deck. We will see.

I don’t see why the price of solar arrays would ever stabilise. There is virtually no material bottom to the production cost of silicon solar cells.

That sounds kind of odd. You are arguing, in effect, that the price improvements will continue, albeit in smaller amounts, ad infinitum. Kind of a Zeno’s Paradox on solar array pricing. Didn’t work for Zeno, won’t work here. We will get to a price per kW of solar arrays and they will be stable with slight increases or decreases as the situation on the ground changes. And it will happen within 20 years, probably. Maybe within 10.

I assume you are referring to the tortoise one? That didn’t “work out”, because it ignored the diminishing time intervals, eventually flipping over to negative. That’s not a comparable situation at all.

The point is that there doesn’t seem to be much of a hard limit to improving the costs of solar PV — similar to integrated circuits. They just get cheaper and cheaper as technology and economy of scale improves.

It’s true that the reductions will become slower once penetration reaches 100%, and thus capacity increases more or less come to a halt, eliminating economy of scale improvements. But even then, cost declines won’t stop entirely, as there will be ongoing technology improvements, as well as less new investment costs to cover.

Frankly, this is a no-brainer. All technology products keep getting cheaper indefinitely — some obviously, others once you consider inflation.

New solar is cheaper than grid electricity pretty much everywhere.

It’s true that there are still some obstacles to solar reaching very high total penetration (though quickly dwindling) — but that’s irrelevant for the use case proposed here.

Thomas built is owned by Daimler…just like Freightliner.

I cannot wait to see the old stinker Diesel school buses replaced in my community ! The diesel exhaust and noise is sickening. This is a great application for electrification ! Short distances and plenty of charge time in between. They can keep some hybrid buses for field trips in service.

Companies like Thomas, Blue Bird, Collins, Starcraft, and others have done little with regard to electrification. Their thinking is still stuck in the old days of considering a vehicle platform that accepts an electric drivetrain in the places an ICE drivetrain normally exists. Someone like Tesla (or even Apple, for example) could quite easily beat them to market, even yet, with a bus product that not only meaningfully reduces school expenses, but also improves occupant on-road safety even more that would improve idling safety. While this story is welcome news for Proterra, it’s quite a baby step for school districts, parents, and students. The proposed product results, so far, remind me of the replacement U.S.Mail vehicle redesign that was accepted – retrograde. The challenges and expenses of a metropolitan area public transit bus are much harder and more expensive to solve for an outfit like Proterra than those of a school bus. In many ways the metrics and parameters for a school bus are an electrification dream scenario. The reactions to this article in the comments may be evidence of the risk appetite and pain point concerns of the voters of school boards and school budgets in the matter.