Daimler Invests in Electric Bus Maker Proterra, Will Partner on Future Commercial EV Production

The two companies will specifically look into developing electric school buses.

Electric bus maker Proterra now counts Daimler among its investors, alongside BMW and Al Gore. Daimler and California-based investment firm Tao Capital Partners co-led a $155 million funding round for Proterra, which will also collaborate with Daimler on heavy-duty electric vehicles.

The first product of the Daimler-Proterra partnership will be an electric school bus for the German automaker’s Thomas Built Buses division. Proterra has primarily focused on transit buses so far, but a company statement noted that since most school buses drive a predictable distance each day, electric powertrains make sense for them as well. Thomas Built Buses unveiled a prototype electric school bus in late 2017. At the time, it said production would begin in 2019.

Daimler’s electric commercial vehicle efforts have primarily focused on trucks for its Fuso, Mercedes-Benz, and Freightliner brands. Proterra will bring its experience with electric buses to the table. In return, Daimler will lend the smaller company some of its expertise in building vehicles in large volumes, a Proterra press release said.

Proterra aims to capitalize on the growing popularity of electric buses. In the United States, 85 transit agencies have begun electrifying their bus fleets, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Los Angeles wants an all-electric bus fleet by 2030, and Proterra will deliver 25 electric buses for the city in 2019. The company also provided five buses to New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority for a trial earlier this year. Other cities have made smaller numbers of purchases or conducted trials of electric buses from Proterra and other manufacturers.