Proterra Raises $55 Million as Electric-Bus Maker Preps for IPO

  • Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management led funding round
  • BMW i Ventures also joined fundraising for clean-bus startup

Environmentalist Al Gore continues to put his money where his mouth is, with his investment management firm leading a $55 million fundraising round for clean-bus maker Proterra Inc.

The Silicon Valley maker of electric transit buses said Tuesday it raised $55 million as it prepares for a possible initial public offering later this year. Generation Investment Management LLP -- whose chairman is the former vice president -- led the round. It was joined by BMW i Ventures, the corporate venture capital team founded by BMW Group in 2011.

“This round was unplanned. It came together because two specific investors wanted to own a part of what we’re doing,” Proterra Chief Executive Officer Ryan Popple said in an interview. “Everywhere you look there’s a crappy old diesel bus that needs to be replaced with an electric bus.”

Public buses are a key part of the U.S.’s transit infrastructure, and the fact that they serve routine, fixed routes makes them ideal for electrification. 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. Even as President Donald Trump said the U.S. will pull out of the Paris agreement, cities and municipalities are increasingly leading efforts to combat climate change.

“Proterra is incredibly well positioned to help accelerate the growth of sustainable cities and continue our transition to a clean energy economy,” Gore said in a statement announcing the close.

The funding follows a $140 million fundraising disclosed in January. The company has sold more than 400 of its electric buses that it makes at its plants in Greenville, South Carolina, and City of Industry, California, to cities including Seattle, Dallas and Philadelphia.

“Cities that were waiting to see what the federal government would decide on Paris are moving into a leadership position,” said Popple. “Existing cities that we have contracts with are pulling their follow-on orders forward, and other cities are putting out clean energy objectives and goals.”

Popple, who said the company is still preparing for an IPO, had said in January he expects it to go public late this year or in 2018. The bus manufacturer hired Amy Ard -- who helped lead AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group NV through an IPO -- as chief financial officer in May.

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