Sep 8, 2023 - News

Electric bus bankruptcy further complicates Iowa test project

A photo of an electric bus.

DART initially projected the new vehicles would be on streets by spring 2019 as part of an 18-month review. Photo: Courtesy of DART

DART's electric bus pilot program — already grounded for about a year because of maintenance issues — will remain off Des Moines roads for months, spokesperson Erin Hockman tells Axios.

  • This time it's due to their manufacturer's recently filed bankruptcy.

Why it matters: When they debuted in 2020, the program was promoted as a test in how zero-emission vehicles would operate in the metro.

  • But the transit agency's seven electric buses, which cost about $865K each, have so far been out of commission for about a third of their test run.

Catch up fast: Their startup costs, which included infrastructure like electric hookups, were about $6.7M.

  • Roughly 75% was covered via federal grants. The rest came from DART, the city of DSM and MidAmerican Energy.

Driving the news: Proterra, the buses' California-based manufacturer, filed for bankruptcy last month.

  • DART officials anticipated the vehicles would return to service this fall but now believe it'll be at least two more months before the agency knows about the next steps, Hockman says.

The big picture: Billions of dollars in federal aid boosted the electric bus industry in recent years but its manufacturers have been hit by supply chain disruptions and inflation.

  • Proterra's uncertain future is a new hurdle in the nation's transition to electric power, per The Washington Post.

Of note: The company plans to continue operating through bankruptcy proceedings, the Post reports.


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