Electric-Bus Maker Proterra Hires Former Tesla Executive as COO

Proterra Inc., a Silicon Valley-based maker of electric transit buses, named former Tesla Motors Inc. manufacturing executive Josh Ensign as chief operating officer to oversee an increase in production.

Ensign is one of several manufacturing executives who left Tesla in recent months, in part because such expertise is in high demand in Silicon Valley. Facebook Inc. in June hired Rich Heley, who was Tesla’s vice president of product technology, to lead its manufacturing. Proterra and other electric-vehicle startups have also been seeking production executives in the region.

Josh Ensign

Source: Proterra

“There’s a resurgence of manufacturing in the Bay Area,” Ensign said in an interview. “We have a backlog of orders at Proterra, and the success of the company is how quickly can we ramp up production and output.”

Proterra is planning to triple production at its factory in Greenville, South Carolina, with a second plant to open near Los Angeles next year. The company was founded in 2004, first sold buses in 2009 to Foothill Transit in Southern California and has now provided more than 300 of its vehicles to at least 35 transit agencies. Last month, Proterra unveiled the Catalyst E2 series, a high-performance bus that can service long routes and travel about 350 miles (560 kilometers) a charge.

Public buses are a key part of the overtaxed U.S. transit infrastructure, particularly for those who can’t afford to buy a car or hail one from a smartphone. And as the nation’s coal-fired power plants close, transportation is likely to eclipse electricity production as the country’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s already true in states such as California, where transportation accounts for 37 percent of emissions.

Ensign, 42, was vice president of manufacturing at Tesla from June 2014 until May. Previously, he worked in Honeywell International Inc.’s automotive and aerospace businesses in locations including Mexico, Shanghai and Geneva.

Ryan Popple, Proterra’s chief executive officer and another former Tesla employee, said Ensign will lead Catalyst vehicle production. “His operational expertise is exactly what Proterra needs to bring the Catalyst mainstream and to maintain our pursuit of a clean, diesel-free future,” Popple said in a statement.

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