Proterra Unveils 350-Mile Range Electric Buses at APTA Conference in L.A.

Proterra’s new Catalyst E2 electric bus parked outside the APTA conference. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At the American Public Transit Association’s annual meeting in downtown Los Angeles, electric bus maker Proterra unveiled its new Catalyst E2 transit bus. The Catalyst E2 electric bus is “named for its unprecedented Efficient Energy (E2) storage capacity.” According to Proterra:

[A]n E2 series vehicle achieved a new milestone at Michelin’s Laurens Proving Grounds where it logged more than 600 miles on a single charge under test conditions. Its nominal range of 194 – 350 miles means the Catalyst E2 series is capable of serving the full daily mileage needs of nearly every U.S. mass transit route on a single charge and offers the transit industry the first direct replacement for fossil-fueled transit vehicles.

Proterra manufactures these buses at plants in L.A. County’s City of Industry and in Greenville, South Carolina.

Los Angeles County’s Foothill Transit is among the nation’s early adopters of electric bus technology, with a planned all-electric bus fleet by 2030. According to Doran Barnes, Executive Director at Foothill Transit and new APTA board chair:

We just surpassed one million miles of revenue service with our battery-electric Proterra fleet, and we’re looking forward to many more miles to come. Since our first EV bus procurement with Proterra in 2010, we knew that zero-emission buses were the future of mass transit. Now, with the new Catalyst E2, this vision is a reality. We’re excited by the possibilities of an all-electric future.

Metro is also dipping its toe into the electric bus waters. The agency has been testing electric buses for some time, though none have yet progressed to widespread usage. Perhaps the Catalyst E2 will. Under an April 2016 motion by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Metro is studying how the agency can prudently transition to a zero-emissions fleet.

Streetsblog L.A. coverage of San Gabriel Valley livability is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”


  • james456 – more information.
    This is exciting. Electric is ideal for starting and stopping because the buses can use regenerative breaking to get more efficiency and save on brake wear. The website actually claims the buses will be cheaper over their lifetime.

  • j

    does this mean the return of rear windows?

  • calwatch

    The Metro staff are preferring “renewable” CNG as their preferred propulsion technology, after the BYD buses turned out to be duds. They will meet the Board zero emission vehicle mandate, but will be doing CNG otherwise because it is a mature technology which works for urban areas, compared to Foothill which is primarily suburban and has much lower load factors and easier terrain.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    It was the 40′ BYD buses that were problematic. Metro had very good results testing a 60′ BYD bus on the Orange Line and as a result ordered five 60′ BYD buses for the Orange Line.

  • calwatch

    Only because BYD gave them a $3 million credit to save face from their embarrassment. From talking to Metro staff and visiting the BYD plant, it is clear there is a learning curve involved in moving from constructing RVs to heavy duty buses used on urban service (as opposed to shuttle operation, which is BYD’s other primary customer). The jury is still out as to whether BYD products will meet the minimum 12 year lifespan, among other things.

  • Converting the Orange Line to electric buses would be amazing. California’s climate policies are pushing us in that direction. The tech might be not quite fully baked now, but we’ve got to look forward. The tech will only improve.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    The staff report, that you provided a link to, clearly states that Metro is ordering five 60′ all electric buses from New Flyer and that Metro intends to order up to 200 zero emission buses in fiscal years 2018 through 2022. The New Flyer all electric 60′ buses do not have enough battery storage to run a complete shift without recharging. There would likely be some form of inductive charging when the bus stops at some stations along the Orange Line route.

  • calwatch

    It also clearly states they are buying five BYD buses due to the $3 million credit (background, point #2). The Orange Line requires 43 buses in total. New Flyer at least is a bus manufacturer and so their buses will likely not have the same quality issues BYD buses had.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    You stated in your first post that Metro staff prefers CNG buses over electric after the BYD buses were a dud. Its the cost of all electric buses compared to CNG that seems to be the deciding factor as it states on the last paragraph of page 4 of the pdf below: “No single US transit operator, even the largest operators like LA Metro, have the resources and means to single-handedly support ZEB commercialization.”

    All electric bus purchase price on the report is about 65% more than a CNG bus. That’s a huge price difference which is bound to decrease as the energy storage capability of batteries increases.

    It states on page 2 of the above link: “Even though battery electric ZEB’s are more expensive to purchase and operate today, battery electric bus technology is evolving rapidly, and there is a likelihood that ZE battery electric buses could become the more cost effective option for some of Metro’s bus fleets in the future.”

  • User_1

    “Metro is also dipping its toe into the electric bus waters. The agency
    has been testing electric buses for some time, though none have yet
    progressed to widespread usage.”

    If it’s anything like Metro’s speed at implementing video info for travelers on the Blue and Green lines, I’d say we’re looking at EV buses by 2060. If we’re lucky!

  • Dennis_Hindman

    The end of service life for the current 60-foot buses that Metro uses is 2019. This means that it will be a couple of years before Metro needs to decide what will replace the in service Orange Line buses. Those 10 electric 60-foot buses that Metro will receive in late 2017 will be in addition to the 43 buses now being used on the Orange Line. The idea behind that would probably be to increase the carrying capacity for passengers during peak hours in order to relieve crowding.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Also diesel is loud and stinks. electric vehicles are vastly better in cities.

  • calwatch

    It’s also because Metro feels that “renewable” CNG buses are a more mature technology. It will play an increasing role, but to expect anything like what Foothill Transit is doing with going all electric by 2030 is not in the cards. “Natural gas and RCNG will continue to play a big role” and Metro is waiting until zero emissions are comparable cost to natural gas.

  • Bernard Finucane
  • I don’t mean to take anything away from the achievement, but it should be noted that it’s the battery storage, not the mere fact of the electric bus, that is notable. After all, we’ve had electric buses on wires for nearly a century.

  • Charles Siegel

    That cost reduction may not take very long. If batteries keep going down in cost at recent rates, the initial purchase price of electric cars will be lower than the initial price of internal combustion cars around 2025 – not to mention the lower operating costs of electric cars.

    I haven’t seen any numbers for the cost of electric buses, but with battery costs going down so quickly, they should be competitive fairly soon.

  • neroden

    The problem is the upfront purchase price. Foothill Transit has correctly figured out that the TCO of battery-electric buses is (slightly) better. So has Chicago’s CTA. The trouble is, bluntly, finding financing, since the cost of an electric bus is all upfront and the cost of a diesel or CNG bus is spread out over years of fuel and maintenance.

    Chicago’s CTA worked out that they can get CMAQ financing for removing emissions from downtown, which solves the financing problems. Chicago dislikes CNG as they break down too easily and quickly.

  • neroden

    The initial purchase price of electric cars will be lower than the initial price of comparable ICE cars for the top half of the price bracket in *2018*. Then it really gets going.

    The TCO for battery-electric buses is already slightly better than for diesel or CNG (for the city duty cycle). Unfortunately, it’s all front-loaded so financing is a huge issue. We’ll see when the battery prices drop enough that this doesn’t seem insurmountable to agencies like LA Metro. (Foothill Transit has already made the plunge; Chicago’s CTA is making the plunge by using CMAQ money.)

  • AB3

    As far as I’m aware, Metro has fully transitioned off of diesel and onto CNG. While CNG doesn’t really have the smell and visible soot issues of diesel, it still is pretty loud.


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