Philadelphia’s electrical bus fleet in a large number – are you executed with it?


JULY 19, 2021

By Paul Homewood

More than two dozen Proterra electric buses, which were first unveiled by the City of Philadelphia in 2016, are already out of service, according to a WHYY investigation.

The entire fleet of Proterra buses was removed from the streets in February 2020 due to structural and logistical problems by SEPTA, the city’s transport authority – the weight of the powerful battery cracked the chassis of the vehicles and the battery life was insufficient for the city’s bus routes. The city raised issues with Proterra, which did not adequately address the city’s concerns.

The city paid $ 24 million for the 25 new Proterra buses, partially subsidized by a federal grant of $ 2.6 million. Philadelphia defended the investment by claiming the electric buses would require less maintenance than traditional internal combustion engine counterparts.

“There are far fewer moving parts in an electric bus than in a combustion engine,” said SEPTA boss Jeffrey Knueppel in June 2019. Knueppel resigned from his post just a few months later.

Proterra, which was on the board of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm when Philadelphia pulled buses off the streets last year, has been highlighted as a company of the future by the Biden government. President Joe Biden visited the company’s factory in April and promised in his first proposal for an infrastructure package to include federal funds for the electric vehicle market. The company has since been touted by top officials, including White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy, who in a public session asked Proterra’s CEO how the federal government could boost demand for Proterra buses.

The cost of Proterra’s electric buses has drawn attention in recent weeks. On a recent trip from Biden to La Crosse, Wisconsin, it was revealed that two buses the city ordered from Proterra for $ 1.5 million in 2018 have still not been delivered. In the past five days, Proterra’s share price has fallen over 25 percent.

Philadelphia’s Proterra buses were first introduced for the 2016 DNC Convention with the promise that the city would “step into an emission-free future”.

Granholm served on Proterra’s board of directors from 2017 until the beginning of this year. During that time, both SEPTA and Proterra learned that the heavier buses were cracking, according to the WHYY report.

Philadelphia placed the Proterra buses in areas it believed could be successful, but quickly learned it was wrong. Two pilot routes in South Philadelphia, relatively short and flat compared to others in the city, were too much for the electric buses.

“Even these routes took buses to travel about 100 miles each day, while the Proterras only took an average of 30 to 80 miles per load,” wrote WHYY reporter Ryan Briggs. “The officers also quickly discovered that there was no space for charging stations at the ends of both routes.”

Similar problems have been identified in other cities that have partnered with Proterra. Duluth, Minnesota, which like Philadelphia waited three years for its Proterra buses to be delivered, eventually retired its seven buses “because their braking systems struggled on the Duluth hills and a software problem caused them to roll back when accelerating “. uphill from a standing start, ”says the Duluth Monitor.

Proterra did not respond to a request for comment.

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