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Town's electric buses out of commission — commuters relying on diesel-powered fleet
AMBER BAESLER for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Town's electric buses out of commission — commuters relying on diesel-powered fleet

All electric buses in the town of Jackson, Wyoming, are currently out of commission and not expected to return to service any time soon, forcing commuters to rely on the transit system's more reliable diesel-powered fleet, Jackson Hole News & Guide reported last week.

Southern Teton Area Rapid Transit, a public transportation system provided by Jackson and Teton County, Wyoming, purchased eight electric buses from EV manufacturer Proterra, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month. All of the company's buses are now out of commission and in need of repairs.

According to START director Bruce Abel, only five of the eight vehicles were operational at any given time.

Last month, Abel told Jackson Hole News & Guide that commuting to Teton Village by bus was challenging last year.

"Our reliability was below our desires last year," he stated. "Many missed trips and poor on-time performance."

The town invested in 11 new buses in 2023 to upgrade its public transit system. START aimed to convert 40% of its fleet to electric power.

However, the unreliable EV transportation forced the transit system to abandon its plans to expand services to Star Valley and Teton Valley, Idaho. Instead, the town will receive six new diesel-powered buses next month to alleviate public transportation issues.

Abel explained that even before Proterra filed for bankruptcy, it was difficult to order parts needed to repair the buses, noting that the town had been waiting on some parts for months. He stated it took seven months to receive a door that was ordered for one of the buses.

"They have always been very challenging parts to supply," Abel told the outlet. "Now with them in bankruptcy, we don't expect their suppliers to supply them to supply us."

Abel added, "We are going to find a way to get them back on the road."

Earlier this month, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority purchased 25 buses from Proterra, which have not been in service for over three years. The outlet noted that with the company filing for bankruptcy, SEPTA could lose $24 million after finding some of the buses had cracked frames and other issues. One of the EV batteries reportedly burst into flames last year, it added.

SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch stated, "At this point we don't know what the path forward would be and what SEPTA's [legal] remedies are, and we can't say when the buses would come back into service."

Proterra was touted by President Biden several times, and the company received a $10 million COVID relief loan from the Paycheck Protection Program in 2020. The loan was forgiven in 2022, Bloomberg reported. The company also received other federal government incentives and support for its EV manufacturing.

A Proterra spokesperson told Bloomberg last month that the relief funds "supported our ability to maintain a full workforce as we navigated the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic."

When filing for protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company's CEO, Gareth Joyce, stated, "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."

"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," Joyce continued.

The CEO noted that the company had "faced various market and macroeconomic headwinds, that have impacted our ability to efficiently scale all of our opportunities simultaneously."

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