Charlie Spiering: Biden’s Big Battery Bus Boondoggle Bust 

Columnist Charlie Spiering writes, "Despite Democrats echoing the siren song of an all-electric public vehicle program that would protect children from diesel fumes, all the president’s shills and all the president’s subsidies could not keep Proterra from going bankrupt."

Charlie Spiering

August 09, 20234 min read

Collage Maker 09 Aug 2023 05 23 PM 3254
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

"The wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round," chanted Vice President Kamala Harris with a laugh in December 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina as she sat behind the wheel and honked the horn of a massive electric bus built by Proterra, a California company. 

The vice president’s enthusiasm for electric buses was part of the Biden administration's laborious effort to promote the idea of transitioning America's buses from diesel to battery-powered electric power. 
Months earlier, in March 2021, President Joe Biden appeared on camera from the White House to take a virtual tour of a battery facility with Jack Allen, the CEO of Proterra who promoted the pipe dream of selling electrified buses to gullible local municipalities to help reduce pollution. 

“Chairman, let me say something quickly to you. The fact is you’re making me look good,” Biden said proudly. In June, Biden praised the city of La Crosse, Wisconsin for purchasing electric busses from Proterra. 

The Biden team signaled a preference for Proterra, as Democrats everywhere were invested in the future of the company. 

In January 2021, the company was valued at $1.6 billion with dreams of a Biden-subsidized future thrilled investors. Former Vice President Al Gore was one of Proterra’s largest investors. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was forced to sell her 240,520 shares in the company in 2021 for $1.6 million after reports uncovered her failure to report her financial stake in the company after taking the reigns of the Department of Energy.

National Economic Council director Brian Deese formerly led BlackRock’s global sustainable investing when the company invested $415 million into the Proterra merger. The future of the company seemed brighter than ever as the company was even talking to the Pentagon to discuss the electrification of the nation’s military fleet. 

We're going to start the process, where every vehicle in the United States military, every vehicle is going to be climate friendly,” Biden boasted on Earth Day in 2022. “Every vehicle. No, I mean it, we’re spending billions of dollars to do it.”

The Biden administration did its best to boost the company. Over $10 billion in spending for public transit and school buses was included in the infrastructure bill, as company executives eagerly trumpeted their anticipation to investors. Local governments certainly needed the extra cash just to purchase the expensive coaches. Transit agencies were eying costs of between $800,000 to over $1 million a piece for the buses to add to their fleet. 

It was not enough. Despite all the government subsidies and support, Proterra filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday. 

"We have faced various market and macroeconomic headwinds that have impacted our ability to efficiently scale," CEO Gareth Joyce said in a statement stuffed with corporate speech. 

Perhaps local governments should have looked into the performance of the electric buses around the country where the wheels of the buses were not going ‘round and ‘round. The city of Philadelphia sidelined its entire fleet of 25 Proterra buses, citing cracked chassis due to the weight of the massive battery packs and insufficient battery life. One of the sidelined buses burst into flames. 

In Juneau, officials complained the bus they purchased from Proterra was a “lemon,” as it sat in the garage due to faulty parts and a reduced range in the cold weather. 

In Duluth, MN, seven Proterra buses were pulled from service, after just two months of service. The buses struggled with performance on the hills and limited range due to cold temperatures. 

In California, multiple municipalities complained of a lack of parts, bad customer service, fires, and reduced performance as the vehicles aged.

Despite Democrats echoing the siren song of an all-electric public vehicle program that would protect children from diesel fumes, all the president’s shills and all the president’s subsidies could not keep Proterra from going bankrupt. 

Biden’s green investment failures echo the same failed efforts by former President Barack Obama’s $535 million loan guarantee investment into Solyndra. It’s the kind of investment that remind Americans just how bad a deal the unproven electric dreams can be for the American taxpayer.  

Charlie Spiering is a Wyoming native who works in Washington, D.C., where he continues writing about the White House, Congress and national politics. A former writer for Breitbart News, The Washington Examiner and columnist Robert Novak, Spiering frequently returns home to the family farm in Powell to escape the insanity of Washington.

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Charlie Spiering