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BMW and Al Gore Invest $55M in Electric Bus Manufacturer Proterra

The unlikely bedfellows are plunging ahead on electrified mass transit.

Both consumer acceptance and sales of electric cars have been on the upswing, but the public transport sector has been making its own strides behind the scenes. Proterra, a manufacturer of electric buses, reportedly closed their last round investments to the tune of $55 million with funding from two very large (and very different) names—BMW and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

This development comes not long after BMW announced plans to expand its i Ventures program to further invest in its own electric vehicle program, and news of their recent partnership with Chargepoint to roll out a large number of charging stations nationwide. Repeated investment by the German auto manufacturer shows a clear interest in the shift to electrified vehicles in the not-so-distant future. Not surprisingly, the belief is further solidified by a statement from BMW i Ventures that calls electric mass transit “the new standard” over fossil-fueled buses.

And while BMW is the biggest automotive name to hop on board, the reportedly “unplanned” investment round was led by none other than former-V.P-turned-environmentalist Al Gore, whose investment firm Generation Investment Management LLP focuses on sustainable projects.

Proterra recently announced its plan to test autonomous driving technology with its electrified bus program. The self-driving buses will operate initially in Reno, Nevada during the trial. A partnership between Proterra and the University of Nevada was formed to develop the autonomous driving software, and they’re planning a full rollout in approved cities once the tech is approved for commercialization.

Proterra CEO Ryan Popple claims that its electrified buses are even cheaper over their lifespan than their diesel counterparts. This may have been one of the driving forces behind the company’s 380 deliveries across 15 different states. The company plans to use the bulk of the new funding to increase production numbers at their two manufacturing plants located in Los Angeles and South Carolina, and also support research and development on the company’s future ventures.