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General Motors Invests in Electric Bus Firm With Rapid Charger Tech

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Proterra Electric Bus, photo by Jeromy Robert (www.jeromyrobert.com)

Proterra Electric Bus, photo by Jeromy Robert (www.jeromyrobert.com)

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 You’d think that General Motors already had a pretty impressive grasp of the electric vehicle market with its 2011 Chevrolet Volt, but the automaker announced today that its investment arm was providing part of the capital in a joint $30 million venture investment in a company that makes electric busses.  

That’s right. Busses. 

Enter Proterra Inc., a company based in Colorado which focuses on developing busses capable of refiling their battery packs in just 10 minutes using specialized ultra-rapid charging stations. 

While Proterra’s busses are currently found as part of a fleet in Pomona, California, the firm already has two further fleets planned for rollout later this year. 

But why would an automaker want to be involved with a firm that makes electric busses? 

At the moment, the partnership is purely financial, but Proterra’s ultra-rapid charging technology is likely to be of great interest to GM, which could make use of a similar technology in future plug-in vehicles, basically eliminating the limited-range and slow recharge times of many electric cars on the market today. 

Proterra Electric Bus

Proterra Electric Bus

Enlarge Photo

Not only that, but future technology partnerships could provide a way for GM to keep the unit cost of raw battery pack materials to a minimum, leveraging both firms’ bulk buying potential to enable them to make high quality but low cost battery packs. 

Proterra isn’t just getting investment from GM. Its other investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Mitsui & Co., Ltd., Vision Ridge Partners and 88 Green Ventures - showing that the firm’s technology is of significant importance in the green transport world. 

We must admit that GM’s investment in a firm which makes electric busses is a little amusing. After all, in another lifetime GM was considered the main force behind a scheme to buy all of the electric streetcars in cities across the U.S. and replace them with internal-combustion-engined busses. 

We’re pretty sure GM won’t want to reminisce. 

 

[Venturebeat]

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Comments (4)
  1. I believe that GM is building buses on a regular basis. Aren't the hybrid shuttle buses in Yosemite Valley built by GM? Imagine pure electric buses in YV. The hybrids are a lot quieter and less smelly than the diesels they replaced, but what better place for a silent, emissions free, bus? And the hauls are very short and flat, so it would seem pretty doable to deal with the charging. Although it does get pretty cold in the winter, LOL. Anyway, this sounds like it has a lot of synergy for GM.
     
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  2. Edit - A quick search shows that the Yosemite buses were built by Gillig with GM/Allison hybrid power trains. Still.................
     
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  3. I guess my first comment got lost somewhere. I was thinking that the new Yosemite Valley hybrid shuttle buses were built by GM. My edit ended coming up before my comment, LOL. Anyway, GM is very involved in bus technology, so there should be a lot of synergy here. Can you imagine a silent, emissions free, shuttle bus in YV? What better place in the world?
     
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  4. No doubt Proterra’s ultra-rapid charging technology could be of great interest to GM, but it's useless without the right battery tech that can take this kind of charging load. In this case it's Altairnano's lithium titanate technology. Like Toshiba's SCiB battery it can take huge loads and lasts forever but it's lacking in energy density. Hence use in buses rather than cars I suppose.
     
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