GM invests in electric vehicles maker

General Motors’ venture capital said that it will invest $6 million in Proterra, a leading maker of zero-emission commercial transit buses, as part of its plan to develop next-generation transportation technology. GM’s commitment is part of a larger $30 million injection led by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Jon Lauckner, president of GM Ventures, said the decision to fund Proterra "demonstrates our commitment to the electrification of the automobile." Proterra’s EcoRide BE-35 bus is powered by lithium-ion battery packs that give the bus a 40-mile range between chargings.

Jeff Granato, president of Proterra, based in Golden, Colo., said the buses can be recharged in 10 minutes with Proterra’s fast-charging system. Three EcoRide BE-35 buses are being tested by Foothill Transit in West Covina, Calif. Proterra said two other customers – StarMetro, the transit system for Tallahassee, Fla., and San Antonio’s VIA Metropolitan transit system – also have agreed to test pre-production versions of the bus. Granato said the cost to purchase, drive and maintain Proterra’s buses over their lifespan is comparable to that of the diesel hybrids competitors offer. GM created GM Ventures a year ago, with $100 million, to give the automaker an edge in technology and becoming green.