USA Amps Up their Pure-Electric Vehicle Game
Kagan Pittman posted on September 08, 2015 |
Customizable Catalyst XR electric bus travels 258 miles on a single charge.

American manufacturing company Proterra Inc. recently announced the successful testing of their Catalyst XR electric bus. The electric vehicle (EV) traveled 258 miles at an average speed of 30 mph on a single charge at Michelin’s Laurens Proving Grounds (LPG).

The 42ft bus used an eight-pack of Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC) batteries with a total energy capacity of 257kWh, consuming 0.8 kWh/mi during testing. Proterra’s website boasts an energy consumption of 21.4 MPGe at a cost of $0.19/mi.

The company predicts their 10-pack XR configuration (321kWh) will achieve 300 miles on a single charge.


With a variety of customizable options, on-route fast charging lithium titanate batteries can be used. These can be recharged in under five minutes at charging stations that can be installed at curbside pullouts, inside buildings or at bus stops, according to Proterra’s website.

“The purpose-driven Catalyst design affords the best efficiency rating ever for a 40ft transit bus, at 22 MPG equivalent,” said John Sleconich, chief engineer at Proterra. “With a unique aerodynamic body made from carbon fiber and advanced composite materials, we are able to reduce mass for maximum efficiency.”

According to available General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data, typical bus routes in the US run less than 200 miles a day. The Catalyst XR is capable of traveling these routes and is noted to have a 12 year lifespan comparable to standard non-electric vehicles.

Over the term of its use, a Catalyst XR can amount to a savings of $135,000 per vehicle due to lower fuel costs and over cost per mile compared to diesel, CNG and diesel-hybrid buses.

This announcement comes just in time to prove the company has a chance against the competition. California’s BYD Motors have been awarded a contract with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Heavy Duty Bus RFP, BYD recently announced.

The contract allows for up to 800 heavy duty buses across different propulsion types. This includes 12 categories for all-electric buses ranging from 30-60ft for both highway and transit applications with on-route charging configurations.

This mass procurement by Washington State allows any transit agency or public institution in Washington and Oregon to purchase electric buses from the RFP.

So how do BYD’s pure-electric buses stack up to the Catalyst XR?

BYD’s Battery Electric Bus utilizes the BYD Iron-Phosphate battery. With a 12-year-battery warranty, BYD’s bus can travel 155 miles on a single charge, with an energy consumption of 1.92kWh/mi at a $0.21/mi cost.

BYD states that as of April 1st, 2015, BYD bus fleets have completed more than 50 million miles in “revenue service” and have been evaluated in more than 150 cities across 36 countries.

The City of Windsor has agreed to buy 10 electric buses from BYD. (Nick Ut/Associated Press)
The City of Windsor has agreed to buy 10 electric buses from BYD. (Image courtesy Nick Ut/Associated Press)

With BYD having built over 5,000 electric buses already, it’s clearly a popular option.

“Electric buses are no longer a science-fair project,” said Macy Neshati, vice president of sales at BYD Coach & Bus. “With BYD now producing a long-range bus in nearly every category we have proven the technology is here to stay."

America’s growing passion for the adoption of electric buses is an exciting opportunity regarding the environmental issues it may help fix, but there will still be hurdles to clear.

Specifically, large-scale adoption of EV’s will necessitate the construction of vehicle charging ports and alternative solutions like the wireless power transfer systems developed by Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center (HATCI) and wireless power company Mojo Mobility.

These types of charging systems could be implemented at workplaces or even home garages, tacking a car’s fuel costs onto its owner’s home electric bill.

Public transit buses left at stations overnight could fully recharge while parked over a charging pad, ready for a new day’s 200 miles of transporting people to and from work by morning.

"The U.S. is quickly waking up to the economic, environmental and performance benefits of zero-emission electric buses," said Proterra CEO, Ryan Popple. "While diesel buses pollute our communities and are increasingly more costly to own and operate, Proterra is pushing the bounds of EV technology and steadily driving down costs. Achieving this range is validation for our technology and gives us the confidence that Proterra is capable of what we initially set out to accomplish - replacing every fossil fuel bus in the United States with a fully electric one."

Some countries, like China, are already making the move to full adoption of electric buses.

In August 2015, the Chinese government moved to abandon conventional hybrid buses, shifting subsidies to plug-in hybrid and pure-electric models weighing over 8 tonnes.

Several Chinese bus manufacturers have already placed orders for 1000 or more large, pure-electric buses according to IDTechEx.

“In our new report, Electric Buses 2015-2025, we find that China will continue to make and use over 80 percent of all large electric buses,” said Dr. Peter Harrop, chairman of IDTechEx. “That gives them a much lower cost point from which they can export.”

In the report, IDTechEx predicts 69 percent of large electric buses made in 2025 will be pure-electric.

“The writing is on the wall for hybrid buses, though they still sell strongly across the world,” Harrop added. “London, largest city in Europe, has thousands of British hybrid buses and a few British pure-electric large buses. It is now installing its first pure-electric bus route and it will test a BYD pure electric double decker shortly.”

Which pure-electric bus will come out on top in the US? Will pure-electric vehicles buses be adopted as soon as IDTechEx predicts? We’ll just have to vote with our dollars and see.

To learn more, visit www.proterra.com, www.byd.com and www.idtechex.com for their reports.

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