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What Happens Now That Albuquerque’s e-Bus Company Is Bankrupt?

Proterra Inc. was expected to provide the city with 20 electric buses by 2026, but the manufacturing company announced its bankruptcy earlier this month. Payment for the vehicles has not yet been submitted to the company.

The electric bus company expected to provide the city of Albuquerque, N.M., with 20 buses by 2026 filed for bankruptcy earlier this month.

But that hasn't hit the brakes on the city's plans to more than quadruple its electric bus fleet using the South Carolina-manufactured vehicles from Proterra Inc. ABQ Ride was informed of the bankruptcy Aug. 7, the same day the company filed for bankruptcy; a spokesperson for the department said the company guaranteed delivery of the buses despite the filing.

There's no firm deadline on when the buses need to be delivered, although they are expected by summer 2026 — the original timeline provided for the buses. Payment will not be submitted to the company until the buses are received.

Currently, ABQ Ride has five electric buses, manufactured by Proterra, running in a 245-vehicle fleet, which includes 79 Sun Vans. Earlier this year, the city netted $18.2 million in federal funds, which was set aside to purchase 20 electric buses from the company, costing an estimated $1.3 million each.

Proterra did not immediately respond to Journal requests for comment about the status of the delivery. Company documents indicated the company would be filing motions seeking relief to continue operating as usual.

A prospectus published on Proterra's investor relations page detailed problems with component shortages and delays, rising inflation and an uncertain global market. At the end of 2022, it reads, the company experienced problems sourcing wiring harnesses, which delayed production and caused fewer bus deliveries that quarter.

Agencies around the state have reported difficulties balancing efforts to electrify fleets with shortages of electric vehicles.

The prospectus also identified delays in sourcing replacement parts for older buses, "which has led to customer dissatisfaction and buses being out of service for lengthy periods while awaiting replacement parts."

ABQ RIDE's Vehicle Maintenance Division performs all maintenance on the buses in-house. All five Proterra vehicles are currently in service.

Over the past two years, Proterra's stocks have slumped. In January 2021, the price stood at $26.38; this month, it had fallen to about seven cents.

This isn't the first time the city has encountered problems with an electric bus supplier. In 2017, the city contracted with BYD Motors for 18 electric buses for the Albuquerque Rapid Transit system. A year later, the city sued the company, claiming that the manufacturer missed delivery deadlines and sent defective vehicles. The case was settled in 2019, and the contract terminated.

It wasn't until January 2021 that the city unveiled the fleet's first electric bus from Proterra. The company has provided the city with all of its five buses, which were purchased using $2.78 million in funds from the Federal Transit Administration's Low-or No-Emission grant program. The buses run regular ABQ Ride routes.

(c)2023 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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