An ACT News Executive Interview with Toby Kraus, vice president Proterra Powered™, Proterra, providing a flexible platform to make the transition to 100% electric fleets seamless.
Toby Kraus is looking to the future, at the helm of the just launched Proterra Powered™ group that will help medium- and heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers transform their commercial vehicles into high-performance electric vehicles. Proterra has been manufacturing zero-emission electric transit vehicles since 2004. Today, they have over 700 electric buses in operation in 90 communities across North America.
Because of Proterra’s proven experience on the road, they are being chosen by other industry leading vehicle manufacturers to electrify commercial vehicles. Through years of innovative engineering development, Proterra has developed high-performance battery systems, electric drivetrain technology, and heavy-duty charging systems for commercial vehicle applications.
ACT News caught up with Toby to learn more about how Proterra is making zero-emission, electric transportation available for the commercial vehicle market.
ACT News: Proterra just made an impressive announcement about the launch of Proterra Powered™ vehicle electrification solutions. You’re offering Proterra high-performance batteries, electric drivetrain technology and charging systems as a package to help commercial vehicle manufacturers electrify their heavy-duty vehicles. What is most exciting about Proterra’s ability to offer this package to other commercial OEMs and who are you working with?
Toby Kraus: By partnering with Proterra, commercial vehicle OEMs are able to immediately take advantage of technology that has already been proven on the road with more than eight million service miles driven by Proterra transit vehicles. Proterra is already partnering with world-class OEMs like Daimler, Van Hool, and Alexander Dennis to introduce 100% battery-electric vehicles that are powered by Proterra electric vehicle technology and provide clean, quiet transportation.
ACT News: In leading the Proterra Powered group, what do you see as some of the biggest challenges and hurdles still out there for scaling heavy-duty commercial battery electric vehicle (BEV) adoption?
Toby Kraus: The commercial vehicle space is a very large and heterogenous category. Hurdles including availability of charging infrastructure may continue to lead to slower adoptions in some commercial vehicle categories such as long-haul trucking, but we believe there are many commercial vehicle segments that are ready today for scaled adoption of battery electric vehicle technology. Some of the key characteristics that would make a vehicle a good product fit for electrification include poor fuel efficiency, high annual miles traveled, urban and predictable routes, and depot-based fleets. We focused on the transit bus for our first product because it met these characteristics and we believe it is just the first of a number of commercial vehicle segments to begin widespread adoption of EV technology.
ACT News: Proterra offers a full suite of products, services and financing options for commercial applications. Please talk about these offerings, and how they can be integrated and packaged for commercial fleets.
Toby Kraus: What’s unique about Proterra Powered is its flexible platform that can be designed to meet partners where they are today with their electrification efforts and Proterra will work with the partner every step of the way to ensure a successful EV program. From the supply of our core technology to design consulting, integration services, service support, training, and charging infrastructure implementation, Proterra Powered offers a comprehensive electrification solution. In addition to the hardware, software, and expertise that Proterra Powered can provide OEMs, Proterra has also launched Proterra Energy, a comprehensive offering that enables turnkey delivery of a complete energy ecosystem for heavy-duty electric fleets. Included in this process, Proterra engages with utilities and electricity providers across the continent to install utility make-ready equipment, help its customers secure the best possible electricity rates, and identify clean, reliable electricity options.
ACT News: How do you separate Proterra from other competition in the industry?
Toby Kraus: As an OEM ourselves, Proterra incorporated our commercial electric vehicle technology into our own vehicles first. We now have years of experience testing and evolving our battery system, drivetrains, and charging systems through the deployment of our Proterra Catalyst transit vehicles and we’re excited to share that expertise with other OEMs. Proterra’s EV technology platform has been proven on the road today with more than eight million service miles driven by transit buses.
ACT News: How have you seen the commercial BEV industry change since you began working at Proterra?
Toby Kraus: Just over the last few years the commercial vehicle industry has really embraced battery electric vehicle technology due to declining battery costs, improved electric powertrain technology, lower maintenance requirements, and immense public health benefits. When I started at Proterra, transit vehicle electrification was just beginning to hit an inflection point. Last year California passed a mandate requiring transit to go 100% zero emission and many cities across North America have made a commitment to deploy zero-emission vehicle fleets. The transition to electric that is currently underway in the transit industry serves as a paradigm for regulators, manufacturers, fleet operators, and other industry participants for the electrification transition of many more commercial vehicle categories.
ACT News: From the aspect of personal development and teamwork, what are your thoughts and practices related to mentoring?
Toby Kraus: I really take a lot of pride in my team and the professional and personal relationships I have been lucky enough to build at Proterra and in my career. Having a great team, serving as a mentor, and having great mentors has always been as important to me as where I work or what I do.
ACT News: What gets your workday off to a good start?
Toby Kraus: I have a two-year old so a good morning for me always starts out sharing a bowl of oatmeal and reading a couple of stories with her.
ACT News: If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?
Toby Kraus: I’d be a battery engineer for a day. I studied engineering in college but haven’t pursued it in my professional life. I still have a love for technology and innovation so working as closely as I can with great engineers is the next best thing to being one.