Former Tesla Motors executive Ryan Popple is applying the electric car formula to public transportation and planning to build electric buses in California, bringing manufacturing jobs to the state, says a report from SFGATE. Last year, Popple became CEO of Proterra, a company located in South Carolina that manufactures electric buses.
Tesla strategy could work for Proterra
Popple worked with Tesla in the capacity of senior finance director in 2007 when the company was working on bringing down the costs of its debut car, the Roadster. Tesla CEO Elon Musk recalled that in the year 2008, Tesla was on the verge of being bankrupt. However, increased financing and managing costs won a $465 million federal loan to open its factory in Fremont.
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“Some of the darkest years at Tesla were probably some of the best startup training I could have had,” he said.
Proterra, the company that is ready to follow in the footsteps of Tesla, is prepared to occupy a facility that is currently used for making lighting fixtures. The factory is located in the service territory of Foothill Transit, a public transportation agency that is the company’s biggest customer, with 15 electric buses on the road now, and another 13 on order. The new factory will have 50 employees when it starts.
The company is looking to expand and has opened an office in San Bruno. On Wednesday, the California Energy Commission granted $3 million to Proterra, helping it to set up a manufacturing plant in Los Angeles County, says the report.
Selling high-priced electric buses a challenge
Popple’s plan is novel, but it may take a lot to sell an electric bus as costly as $775,000 when diesel guzzling buses just cost around $300,000 or so. Also Proterra will face an additional challenge if oil prices continue moving down.
However, Popple suggests that rechargeable buses have advantages over their diesel counterparts that are hard to beat, especially in California. Gov. Jerry Brown is also backing green energy, and by 2030, aims to bring down oil transportation by half. Also California’s urban areas are heavily impacted by air pollution.
Popple agreed that electrifying public transportation within cities would be a significant step in the future. He said that although it is impossible to achieve this overnight, it will happen eventually.