Proterra Nabs $140 Million as Electric Bus Maker Targets 2017 IPO

  • Silicon Valley startup makes fully electric transit buses
  • Proterra sees funding round as last before IPO late this year

A rendering of Proterra's Catalyst E2 battery-powered bus.

Source: Proterra

Proterra Inc., a Silicon Valley maker of electric transit buses, said it raised $140 million as it accelerates manufacturing in the U.S. before a possible initial public offering this year.

The venture funding is the company’s fifth round, and Proterra Chief Executive Officer Ryan Popple said he expects it to be the last before taking the company public late this year or in 2018. Proterra declined to name the lead investor in the latest financing round, saying it includes several new and existing backers, including Tao Capital Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and General Motors Co.’s venture arm.

“The size of the round and the diversity of our investors reflects what we’re seeing around the world as institutions and businesses divest from fossil fuels,” Popple said.

Public buses are a key part of the 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 places such as Proterra’s home state of California, where transportation accounts for more than a third of emissions.

Proterra was founded in 2004 and sold its first buses five years later to Foothill Transit in Southern California. It now has customers among transit agencies across the country. The company said it sells each bus for $749,000. Proterra declined to comment on revenue or the valuation from its new funding.

The startup’s latest battery-powered model is called the Catalyst E2, a high-performance vehicle introduced last year that can travel about 350 miles (560 kilometers) a charge. Proterra makes its buses at a factory in Greenville, South Carolina, and plans to open a second plant near Los Angeles this year.

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