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BMW backs Proterra in US$55m investment round

Proterra Catalyst XR

Investments from BMW and Al Gore’s venture capital businesses to help production and R&D

US electric bus manufacturer Proterra rarely leaves the headlines these days. Its latest feat is the closure of a US$55 million investment round, its second this year and sixth in total.

Following the reportedly oversubscribed US$140 million Series 5 in January, the latest round welcomes Generation Investment Management – chaired by clean energy advocate Al Gore – and BMW i Ventures, the auto group’s corporate venture capital arm.

The latter in particular is interesting. Although BMW has a firm commitment to electrification and powertrain innovation, it lacks a footprint in haulage and mass transit. Indeed, this is i Ventures’ first investment in heavy-duty electric vehicle manufacturing, and adds to its portfolio of ventures in charging infrastructure and on-demand/ride-hailing services.

What the implications of this are in the long term, we couldn’t say, but BMW is evidently keen to have a slice of the mass-transit pie. 1

And that pie may be sizable; Proterra claims to hold a 60% share of the North American electric transit market. “Due to Proterra’s efforts, electric mass transit is overtaking fossil-fuel buses as the new standard,” commented BMW i Ventures partner Zach Barasz.

Proterra has said it will use the US$55 million to increase production at its manufacturing facilities in South Carolina and Los Angeles, as well as on R&D efforts at company’s headquarters in Silicon Valley.

Generation Investment Management Chairman Al Gore added that: “More than ever before, cities are looking for sustainable transportation solutions that can reduce pollution efficiently and effectively. Proterra is incredibly well positioned to help accelerate the growth of sustainable cities and continue our transition to a clean energy economy.”


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