BC Transit restarts electric bus procurement process after Proterra order cancelled
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Mar 14, 2024
Mehanaz Yakub

Despite the loss of its initial order of 10 electric buses after a court decision, BC Transit is committed to its goal of a fully electric fleet by 2040

A court ruling following Phoenix Motor’s acquisition of bankrupt bus maker Proterra’s assets has killed BC Transit’s plans to add 10 electric buses, like the demo model shown here. Photo: BC Transit

Despite the loss of its initial order of 10 electric buses after a court decision, BC Transit is committed to its goal of a fully electric fleet by 2040

BC Transit’s plans to integrate 10 electric buses ordered from the now-bankrupt manufacturer Proterra are officially dead, following a court ruling determining that Phoenix Motor, the company that acquired Proterra Transit’s business, has “no contractual obligation” to fulfill the transit authority’s electric bus order.

In May 2022, BC Transit placed an order for 10 electric buses, in a deal worth $20 million, from Proterra, a California-based electric bus manufacturer. In early 2023, the transit agency received its first Proterra test bus and announced plans to introduce electric buses in Victoria by the end of the year.

However, last August, Proterra’s financial difficulties forced it to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Subsequently, Phoenix Motor (which also uses the name Phoenix Motorcars), a California-based developer of zero-emission electric vehicles, acquired Proterra’s transit assets for $10 million.

BC Transit says it had “several discussions” with Phoenix about assuming the Proterra contract for the 10 electric buses. However, a court decision on March 5 found that Phoenix is not obligated to assume the BC Transit contracts, citing “several factors.”

“As a result, BC Transit will not receive its first 10 electric buses from Phoenix Motors,” reads a press statement from BC Transit.

Continuing path to electrification

Despite the court’s decision, BC Transit says it still intends to have a fully electric bus fleet by 2040 and that “for the past several months [it] has been working behind the scenes to ensure the electrification program moves forward.”

Specifically, BC Transit says it issued procurements aimed at prequalifying additional vendors to support heavy-duty electric bus deployments, charging infrastructure, and significant electrical equipment for the first phase of the electrification program.

“A prequalified list of vendors means a shorter procurement process,” says BC Transit.

According to BC Transit’s most recent Climate Change Accountability Report (for 2022), the company aims to deploy 115 heavy-duty battery-electric buses and 134 charging points by the end of the first phase of the electrification program in 2026.

Last year, in anticipation of the planned Proterra electric bus delivery, BC Transit installed 10 EV chargers at the Victoria Regional Transit System depot. The company now says the charging equipment constructed at the site is ready to support electric buses from other suppliers.

While the search for an alternative electric bus provider continues, BC Transit says it will continue to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by using renewable fuels.

Electric Autonomy reached out to BC Transit, but the company declined to provide additional comments. The spokesperson for BC Transit says it expects to have “good news” to share about its next steps forward in the coming months.

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