BY: MATTHEW CHIN
A former executive of Tesla Motors now plans to revolutionize bus commuting in America.
Ryan Popple began working at Tesla Motors as a senior finance analyst in late 2007, back when the company faced a financial crisis. Tesla’s first vehicle, The Roadster, sold for far less than the manufacturing cost of the car, according to Bloomberg, and to keep the company out of bankruptcy, a small team including Popple spent several months bargaining with parts makers to bring down the cost. Eventually the manufacturing cost was low enough to keep the company afloat.
Following in the footsteps of Tesla, Popple left his job in 2010 to become the CEO of his own start-up company “Proterra,” a Carolina-based bus manufacturer which specializes in making electric buses that can recharge in less than 10 minutes.
Using what he learned at Tesla about how to make a profit by driving hard bargains, Popple and his company are manufacturing electric buses that are three times more efficient than traditional diesel or gas-fuelled buses. In an industry valued at $58 billion in America alone, and Americans using buses as their leading form of public transportation, Popple plans to supply an alternative to a daily source of mass pollution.
Each Proterra bus has a battery range from 53 to 131 kilowatt hours, which lasts for about 290 kilometres. The company says that this is enough to power the bus for the entire day.
Each bus uses between $5,000 to $10,000 worth of electricity annually— a fraction of the $30,000 for natural gas or $50,000 for diesel powered buses.
Since electric buses are a relatively new technology, the cost to manufacture one is $850,000—more than twice the price of a diesel bus which sells for $300,000. Charging stations will cost an additional $600,000. However, popular use will drive the price down over time.
“I’m highly confident that within the next five to 10 years, the majority of buses sold in the United States will be electric,” Popple said in Greenbiz.
Proterra has already manufactured and sold 100 buses to 14 agencies in the Los Angeles Metro area, which distributes 15 per cent of all the buses in the United States. A new facility in California will manufacture 424 buses. In an electric bus market expected to grow from $9.2 billion to $19.5 billion by 2018 according to TechNavio, Proterra buses could become a common sight in America, significantly reducing pollution and providing a quieter and cleaner mode of transportation.