Proterra's Catalyst breaks Altoona records in energy efficiency and more

Posted on June 10, 2015

Proterra, provider of zero-emission battery-electric buses, announced it has not only completed the structural testing program at the Altoona Bus Research and Testing Center, the transportation industry’s gold standard, but its new Catalyst bus broke records for efficiency, gradeability, weight and acceleration.

While conventional diesel buses average 3.86 MPG, the Proterra Catalyst achieved the best efficiency rating ever for a 40-foot transit bus at 22 MPGe. Nearly six times more efficient than a diesel or CNG bus, the Catalyst is also 15% more energy efficient per mile than the closest competitors’ electric bus on the same test, which translates to a lower lifetime energy consumption of 15%, according to the company.

Notably, Proterra’s new 40-foot bus is more energy efficient per mile than most light-duty trucks and SUVs on the road today.

“The goal of our second-generation vehicle, the 40-foot Catalyst, was to prove that EVs can outperform fossil fuels in transit and the Altoona test results are a testament to how compelling EVs are for this application,” said Proterra’s CEO Ryan Popple. “This level of vehicle performance signals a very promising future for EVs in transit — likely the first major vehicle market that will be able to completely transition to zero-emission vehicles.”

In addition to energy efficiency, the Proterra Catalyst broke records in gradeability, weight and acceleration.

Gradeability has been a historic obstacle for electric buses, which until now, weighed more and had less power, making steep inclines difficult if not impossible to climb. The Catalyst conquered a 15.5% grade, unprecedented in this test by an electric bus, making it an ideal option to serve metropolitan areas with challenging topography in West Coast cities including San Francisco and Seattle.

Made of carbon fiber and advanced composite materials, Proterra’s unibody design is a prime driver for its high performance with regard to weight and durability. With a curb weight of only 27,370 lbs., the Proterra Catalyst is not only lighter than any other electric bus, leading to greater efficiency, but is also more durable than buses made of aluminum or steel and less prone to corrosion. The transit industry has traditionally struggled with vehicle weight, especially for new technologies like hybrid, CNG and EV. By designing the vehicle from the ground-up, using the most advanced technology and materials, Proterra has eliminated the vehicle weight concern for EV.

As proof of the vehicle’s superior power-to-weight ratio, the Proterra 40-foot Catalyst also achieved 0-20 acceleration in just 6.7 seconds. Rapid acceleration is particularly critical for keeping routes running on time, allowing bus operators to move in and out of traffic with greater ease.

“To break not one, but four records at Altoona is a major milestone not just for us, but for the industry as a whole and is a testament to how far electric bus technology has come,” said Popple. “In an industry hungry for innovation, to receive these kinds of results from rigorous testing organizations such as Altoona helps to assure transit managers and civic leaders that electric buses can outperform fossil fuel vehicles and are a durable and reliable investment.”

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