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Problem with Proterra electric buses... they're LEMONS!

Posted by Gold_12th on Sun Mar 23 11:13:02 2014

Seneca’s electric bus service delayed for months; Proterra buses sent back to factory for repairs
news video: http://ib149204.ib-prod.com/p/557781/sp/55778100/serveFlavor/entryId/1_ia77pdyz/v/1/flavorId/1_vqeeu4m3/name/a.mp4

SENECA, S.C. —It was a source of pride when the city of Seneca announced plans to become the first U.S. city to operate an all-electric bus fleet.
"We will eliminate our diesel fuel costs and eliminate our carbon footprint," city administrator Greg Dietterick said during a November 2011 news conference.

But more than two years later, the city’s electric bus service has yet to get off the ground. Officials say there have been issues with the four Proterra buses they purchased since the buses were delivered in December.

“We began having issues with the chargers not charging the buses every time the bus went in to the charging stations,” said Seneca planning director Ed Halbig. “Charging needs to happen 100 percent of the time, especially with the route between Seneca and Clemson.”

WYFF News 4 investigates obtained copies of the buses’ service records and found other issues. In late December, as the city began shadow testing its buses, one of the windshields cracked, because of a faulty defroster. In mid-January, a driver reported that a bus switched out of drive and into neutral while the bus was in motion. A few days later, a headlight assembly was torn from a bus by the wind. Officials determined the assembly had not been properly fastened.

"It hadn't been secured. In fact, no one had known that they needed to secure these headlight housings," Halbig said.

Halbig said Proterra was aware that the headlight housings needed to be secured, but did not communicate it to the city or its operators.

The most troubling issue occurred in early February, according to bus service records. The driver’s side window of one of the buses fell out and shattered on Highway 123 during one of the test routes. Officials hired a third-party inspector to determine the cause of the window incident. According to Halbig, a seal had been installed that did not meet factory specifications.

He also said wiring harnesses in the buses were of different lengths and configurations.

"We found that in building each bus, there were issues of hardware and things like that did not get standardized as they should have been," he said.

At that point, Halbig sent a letter to Proterra, stating the seriousness of the issues they were having:

“The buses continue to have service interruptions while in shadow service. The City of Seneca and Clemson Area Transit need complete confidence that they can operate consistently without service interruption. The personnel representing Proterra as a bus manufacturer must understand this concept,” Halbig wrote.

Halbig insisted all four buses be returned to Proterra’s factory in Greenville for closer inspection. They will remain there until a third-party inspector signs off on any repairs.

WYFF News 4 Investigates requested an interview with Proterra regarding the issues with Seneca’s buses. A public relations firm representing the company told WYFF News 4 the CEO and several top executives were “out of the office” that week and would not be available. She did, however, provide this statement from Proterra CEO Garrett Mikita:

"We recognize that there has been some public concern about the delay in getting EV buses into revenue service in Seneca. Any advanced technology requires careful vetting, road testing and a degree of issue resolution. Some of these issues have arisen over the course of the stringent testing Proterra and CATBus have conducted on Seneca's behalf. Proterra remains 100% committed to the reliable operation of our buses in Seneca, and we are working diligently along with our valued partners there to ensure that the buses that will go into revenue service in Seneca will be of the highest quality,” Mikita wrote.

The city was able to purchase the buses after receiving a $5.4 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration. Officials said they were happy to partner with Proterra, because the battery-powered buses were made locally.

“We always said we're going to be their best advertising once we get our system in place, because anyone coming to visit the Proterra production line can come 30 minutes down the road and see their best production in action,” Halbig said.

Halbig hoped to launch electric bus service in Seneca in early January. Now he says it could be later this year before the buses are ready for passenger service.

“We’re very pleased with Proterra's response to the issues. They took all four buses back. They're working hard. They've put special work teams on each of the buses, each of the issues. They've made it their priority to make sure that we're getting the product we set out to get,” Halbig said.

Still, Halbig said he’s going to wait till the buses are up and running before purchasing a fifth Proterra bus. He said Seneca has received an additional $1.8 million livability grant that will pay for bus stops, a bus storage facility and a fifth Proterra bus.

“We're stewards of the federal money,” Halbig said. “We’re prepared to make that order once it’s been demonstrated we’re getting what we’re hoping for.”



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