Skip to main content

Columbia Business Monthly

Electric Bus Maker Proterra Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Aug 08, 2023 10:52AM ● By David Dykes

(Proterra in Greer, S.C.)

By David Dykes

Burlingame, Calif.-based Proterra Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday, saying it was taking the action to strengthen its financial position and sharpen its technology focus.

The company said it intends to continue to operate in the ordinary course of business as it moves through the process and plans to file the customary motions with the Bankruptcy Court to use existing capital to fund operations, including paying employee salaries and benefits, and compensating vendors and suppliers on a go-forward basis in accordance with Chapter 11 rules, all while ensuring business continuity for customers.

“Proterra is at the forefront of the innovations that are driving commercial vehicle electrification. We know we’re building industry-leading products that our customers want and need,” said Gareth Joyce, Proterra’s CEO. “The foundation we have built has set the stage for decarbonization across the commercial vehicle industry as a whole, and we recognize the great potential in all of our product offerings to enable this important transformation. This is why we are taking action to separate each product line through the Chapter 11 reorganization process to maximize their independent potential.”

With industry-leading durability and energy efficiency based on rigorous U.S. independent testing, Proterra products are designed, engineered, and manufactured in America, with offices in Silicon Valley, South Carolina, and Los Angeles. 

Proterra (NASDAQ: PTRA) has been a leader in the design and manufacture of zero-emission electric transit vehicles and EV technology solutions for commercial applications. 

In the Upstate, Proterra’s Greenville office and manufacturing facility serve as the anchor to the company’s East Coast operations.

Employing transit industry veterans as well as drawing upon talent from the nearby Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research, the Greenville facility embraces the highest vehicle manufacturing standards in the industry, according to Proterra officials.

Powered 1 in Greer, S.C., is Proterra’s first purpose-built, high-volume battery production plant in the Eastern United States. 

By opening Powered 1 in South Carolina, Proterra is bringing state-of-the-art battery production closer to its Proterra Powered customers on the East Coast, Europe, and its own Proterra Transit electric bus manufacturing operations in Greenville, S.C., according to company officials.

The bankruptcy filing comes after Proterra earlier this year announced the South Carolina Department of Education had secured the nation’s largest EPA-funded electric school bus order with Thomas Built buses and Proterra.

The Department of Education’s purchase of 160 new Proterra Powered Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley electric school buses represented the single largest order of electric school buses funded entirely by the EPA’s new Clean School Bus Program to date, Proterra officials said.

Thomas Built Buses and Proterra offer school bus operators a comprehensive, turn-key electric vehicle program that includes EV planning and funding consultation, electric school buses, charging systems, and charging infrastructure design and installation.

The Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley couples 226 kWh of onboard energy from Proterra Powered’s industry-leading battery technology to offer up to 135 miles of drive range to meet the needs of school bus fleets. 

With more than 300 TBB Proterra Powered electric school buses on the road, Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley electric school buses have driven more than one million miles for school districts across North America, according to Proterra officials.

In a blog in 2021, South Carolina-based VentureSouth said its portfolio company Proterra would become publicly listed through a merger with special purpose acquisition company ArcLight Clean Transition Corp.

That merger transaction, which valued Proterra at more than $1.6 billion, would provide the company with resources to continue its growth, VentureSouth officials said.

VentureSouth first invested in Proterra in 2011 when local investors partnered with the Upstate Carolina Angel Network (UCAN) and SCRA to provide bridge funding shortly after the company moved to Greenville, S.C., from Colorado.

Reuters reported Monday that Proterra listed its assets and liabilities in the range of $500 million to $1 billion, and the company recently had a market value of $362 million.