Joe Biden’s darling of the electric battery industry and a significant beneficiary of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill enacted as part of his “Build Back Better” spending agenda got a healthy publicity boost from the federal government Thursday.
Vice President Kamala Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg appeared on behalf of Proterra in Charlotte to showcase its products. The pair effused praise for its electric buses on display, marveling at how they operate and how “user friendly” they are.
Harris let out a trademark laugh while saying, “the wheels on the bus go round and round,” and expressed amazement at how quiet the model bus’s brakes are.
Proterra has become a favored recipient of praise from the Biden administration. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was a member of the company’s board of directors and a major investor before taking office earlier this year. Biden has reliably touted the company, and earlier administration “infrastructure” events have featured Proterra products. Investors in the company, including Al Gore, were instrumental in developing the bipartisan infrastructure spending package.
Despite the financial and promotional support of Democrats, Proterra’s finances and product performance have shown less than ideal outcomes this year. Philadelphia’s city government has taken Proterra buses out of service because of poor battery performance and structural defects. Duluth, Minnesota, sidelined its Proterra bus fleet when their brakes failed when dealing with hills on city streets. The brake failures were the result of defective software.
Buttigieg and Harris chose Charlotte for their appearance, as the city bought five buses from Proterra last year as part of its environmental sustainability plan. So far, the city has only deployed the Proterra buses at the city’s airport. A different provider, eTransEnergy, has been selected to provide buses for city-wide electric public transit.
Even as the company is slated to receive significant benefits from the new infrastructure bill, its stock price has been tumbling throughout the year. It closed on Friday at $9.43 per share, down from its January high of over $29 per share this year.