The maker of the battery-powered buses used by two southern Maine transportation agencies filed for bankruptcy last week, paving an uncertain path for the continued electrification of the state’s bus fleet.

In 2018, Greater Portland Metro and Biddeford Saco Old Orchard Beach Transit teamed up to secure nearly $6 million in federal aid and state funding to purchase four electric-powered buses from Proterra, the country’s largest manufacturer of electric buses.

An electric Metro bus is displayed during Portland’s Earth Day Celebration at Payson Park. Photo courtesy of City of Portland

The battery-powered buses, divided between the two transit agencies, finally hit the ground in May 2022 and since then, the Biddeford transit agency has ordered two additional ZX5 model buses from the company, as well as an on-route charger.

The buses are supposed to be delivered next spring and Chad Heid, Biddeford transit’s executive director, said Thursday that despite the bankruptcy filing, he’s hopeful the buses will arrive on schedule.

Proterra said the company intends to conduct business as usual as it moves through the Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization process. Heid and Denise Beck, communications director for Greater Portland Metro, both said they’ve received the same assurances from Proterra.

Gareth Joyce, Proterra CEO, said the company has faced “various market and macroeconomic headwinds” that affected its ability to scale up its opportunities.


“The foundation we have built has set the stage for decarbonization across the commercial vehicle industry as a whole, and we recognize the great potential in all of our product offerings to enable this important transformation,” Joyce said in a news release.

The filing will allow Proterra to “sharpen” its focus, Joyce said in a news release.

The action came as a surprise to investors.

The company’s shares nearly halved in value last week, with assets and liabilities listed between $500 million and $1 billion, but a market value of just $362 million, Reuters reported. In January 2021, Proterra was valued at $1.6 billion, including debt.

The economic collapse of the electric vehicle manufacturer comes amid a strong push toward electric vehicles from both the federal government and Gov. Janet Mills’ ambitious climate goals.

It’s not clear what impact Proterra’s filing may have on future electrification efforts in the state.


Greater Portland Metro plans for a full carbon-neutral fleet by 2040 and Beck said the agency is still on track to achieve its goal.

There are no additional Proterra buses in the pipeline at this point, she said, and as they’re replacing the diesel or natural gas-fueled vehicles one by one, they’ll evaluate their options and the technology when it comes time to replace another, likely in 2026.

Heid said Biddeford transit will also pivot as necessary.

“I am hopeful, but that said, we are not married to Proterra. This is not unprecedented in this industry,” he said.

Biddeford transit is working to upgrade its fleet and “will continue to advance those efforts independent of one of the (original equipment manufacturers) in this industry” either ending or continuing business operations, Heid said.

Overall, both agencies said their two buses have been performing, if not perfectly, at least well. Each Proterra bus costs a little over $1 million.

“With any new fleet type there tends to be some speed bumps along the way,” Heid said. One bus has been an “A+ student” while the other has had some “hiccups” but any issues have been covered by the vehicle’s warranty. Biddeford transit has had a close working relationship with Proterra’s maintenance team.

Greater Portland Metro has had “mixed results,” Beck said.

“There have been some battery and motor issues where they had to be off the road but we’re getting better range performance than we expected – to 150 miles a day and 14 hours on the road,” she said.

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