Electric-Bus Maker Proterra Raises $55 Million With Eye Toward IPO

By Tim Higgins Features Dow Jones Newswires

Proterra Inc., the electric-bus maker heading toward a possible initial public offering, has raised an additional $55 million in funding from investors including BMW AG's venture-capital arm and Al Gore's investment fund.

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The fundraising follows a $140 million investment in January and brings the total capital collected by the company to $345 million since it was founded in 2004.

Burlingame, Calif.-based Proterra, which has manufacturing facilities in South Carolina and near Los Angeles, has sold more than 400 buses to cities and communities such as Dallas and Philadelphia. The vehicles sell for $750,000 each. Proterra declined to say how many buses it sold last year or disclose revenue.

Besides BMW's i Ventures and Mr. Gore's Generation Investment Management LLP, Proterra has more than a dozen investors, including General Motors Co.'s venture fund and venture-capital firms like Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

"My view is if you can get BMW's help and you're working on lightweight materials and electric cars, and you can get Generation's help in terms of understanding how to be a public company before you're a public company -- especially in the green space -- let's do it," said Ryan Popple, Proterra chief executive.

Proterra bolstered its executive ranks last month with the hiring of two senior executives with experience taking companies public. JoAnn Covington, former general counsel of Rocket Fuel Inc., was named chief legal officer. Amy Ard, who previously worked for AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group NV became chief financial officer. Both worked on their respective companies' IPOs. Proterra also named former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to its board in March.

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Mr. Popple, a former Tesla Inc. executive, has said the company could file for an IPO this year or in 2018. In an interview, he was coy about a timeline for an IPO, saying the company could file soon or wait awhile with the cash raised.

"For me, an IPO is a means to the end and the end is: I want to eliminate fossil-fuel buses from American cities, and if an IPO helps us do that, great," Mr. Popple said. "If a strategic partnership with a larger corporation is actually the faster way to do that -- doesn't matter to me."

The challenge for Proterra is selling buses that are more expensive than traditional diesel buses, though Mr. Popple says his buses are cheaper to operate and don't require as many repair parts.

Write to Tim Higgins at Tim.Higgins@WSJ.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 13, 2017 05:14 ET (09:14 GMT)