Battery-powered bus offers a quiet ride
February 07, 2009
A battery-powered bus made its premiere in downtown San Jose on Friday, giving clean, quiet rides around the block to adults and schoolchildren.
Officials in San Jose and San Francisco, as well as several school districts, are considering using the bus, and its creator - Proterra in Golden, Colo. - might set up manufacturing in California, said Proterra founder Dale Hill.
"We will have a California presence because of the size of the market for green technology," Hill said. "We want to be early recipients of all the latest technology that comes along."
The bus demonstrated on Friday can go for 30 to 40 miles before it needs recharging, and can recharge in 10 minutes.
Proterra's staff has all of the expertise to build the bus, Hill said, which means it can run more efficiently because it's lighter than a standard bus that has been retrofitted to be electric.
Right now the bus is expensive - around $2 million - but Hill expects to be able to bring the price down to $250,000 to $300,000 within two or three years, once battery technology matures.
Although that's still a higher price tag than a diesel-powered bus, it's less expensive to run and could pay for itself faster. Current city buses burn about $40,000 to $45,000 worth of diesel fuel per year, he said, around 10 times the cost of electricity to run a battery-powered bus for a year.
Hill said he designed the bus with San Francisco in mind after a city official took him for a drive up Telegraph Hill and asked him for a bus that ran quietly and didn't belch smoke.
"If you put your thinking cap on, we can run up the hill on battery power, will recharge when we're coming down, and then have an arm that catches the trolley and finish recharging while we're running down Market Street," he said.
Officials in San Jose, meanwhile, want the manufacturing jobs that Proterra could bring. "It would fit in perfectly with the mayor's green vision," said John Weis, assistant executive director of the San Jose Redevelopment Agency.
Weis said his agency is working to introduce Proterra to "as many potential buyers as possible" and is also talking to three other electric transportation companies.
Friday's demonstration was the first stop for Proterra on a 10-city tour of California. The company put together a coalition of cities with money from Sacramento that supports clean transit.
Hill was also in Washington this week asking Congress to include money in the stimulus package for small companies developing green transportation.
The bus will be demonstrated in downtown San Francisco on Thursday.
E-mail Deborah Gage at email@example.com.
This article appeared on page C - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle