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Early Tesla Motors Investors Back Electric Bus Co. Proterra

Early investors in Tesla Motors have backed another electric transportation company, bus maker Proterra, company representatives told VentureWire.

Nick and Joby Pritzker, via their investment firm Tao Invest, participated in a $10 million second close of Proterra’s Series C round, which now totals a little more than $34 million, as VentureWire previously reported. Proterra’s valuation is getting close to $200 million, Chief Executive Garrett Mikita said.

Greenville, S.C.-based Proterra has been on a roll in the past few months, securing large orders with several municipalities in a market that has been scattered and experimental. Electric buses, which promise environmental benefits and fuel savings, are gaining traction as cities that were first to purchase start getting proof of performance, and as manufacturing capacity grows with suppliers like Proterra.

Proterra competes with Chinese company BYD Auto Co., backed by Warren Buffett, as well as with suppliers of buses that run on natural gas and other fuels.

Mr. Mikita said Proterra shipped 23 all-electric buses in 2013, with 14 in the last quarter alone. That’s up from eight delivered to customers in all of 2012.

In addition to shipments, the company has been signing orders, too, including a new deal for a dozen buses signed last quarter, Mr. Mikita said.

“We ended the year with six months of production backlog out in front of us,” the CEO said.


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