Electric buses are becoming widespread in cities around the world. What about Tesla hitting the market with an electric bus model? Let’s start from the end: in November 2023 a Tesla fan page account published on its Facebook page the picture of what can’t be defined other than Tesla Bus. And again in mid-December.

But let’s recap the story from the beginning. In recent years, news have often been circulating with regards to the possibility that Tesla might begin to manufacture electric buses. Or to cooperate with other companies in the market of zero emission buses. In this article Sustainable Bus sums up the history of the relationship between Tesla and electric buses.

tesla bus

Tesla and electric buses, where Proterra comes from

The experience developed by Tesla (that in 2023 shared it has delivered 1.8 million electric cars worldwide) had been the springboard for activities in the field of electric buses of Proterra, that for a few years has been among the main North American brands with regards to zero emission buses (two main competitors: the Canadians of New Flyer and the Chinese of BYD). Ryan Popple was indeed appointed CEO of Proterra in 2014. He had previously spent two years in Tesla Motors.

tesla electric bus

In 2015, Proterra was awarded a $3 million grant from the California Energy Commission to fund the design, development and construction of a battery-electric transit bus manufacturing line in California. In 2016 Josh Ensign left Tesla, where he covered the position of President of Manufacturing, and joined Proterra as Chief Operating Officer.

However, the company filed for bankruptcy in August 2023. In November 2023 Volvo Group has been selected as the highest bidder in an auction for the business and assets of the Proterra Powered unit, at a purchase price of $210 million. Proterra transit business went to Phoenix Motorcars.

2017, Tesla electric bus under development

tesla electric bus

Back in May 2017, Tesla CEO Elon Musk expressed doubts about the project to develop an electric bus signed Tesla. According to The Verge, Musk said the vehicle was under development to be presented by the end of 2017.

I don’t know if the bus thing really makes sense in a shared and completely autonomous environment,” Musk said in response to a question about the project. “If it costs less than a bus ticket to use a shared autonomy fleet to go where you want, point to point, why don’t you just use it? So I don’t know”. Musk then added that according to him traffic and urban density “can be completely lightened with tunnels”, referring to the bizarre project focused on the creation of a system of underground tunnels.

tesla electric bus

Tesla electric bus, what about a mini?

If it is true that Musk has excluded the production of a real regular size bus, the door has remained open for a vehicle with 10 or 12 seats.

Furthermore, a minibus or van could result more suitable to Musk long-term vision: a situation where driverless technology might make public transport obsolete, allowing the circulation of self driving electric Tesla “taxis” available to take people from point to point. Such a model could prevail as long as it won’t be cause of huge congestion (avoidable, according to Musk, with tunnels… but this is another story) and it will be affordable (today Uber and Lift aren’t, as proved by the companies losses highlighted in an article of The Guardian).

Elon Musk and public transport

It is quite known how Musk dislikes public transit: “I think public transport is painful. It sucks. Why do you want to get on something with a lot of other people, that doesn’t leave where you want it to leave, doesn’t start where you want it to start, doesn’t end where you want it to end? And it doesn’t go all the time”, Tesla CEO said.

Musk’s preference for vans has been confirmed by a tweet published by Musk in November 2018, in which he looked forward to a collaboration with Daimler (an early investor in Tesla’s shares) aimed at the production of an electric van. With regard to the announcement of the next launch of his electric van, Musk tweeted: “Maybe interesting to work with Daimler/Mercedes on an electric Sprinter”. Nothing more than this. But it was enough to create a viral circulation of gossip news about a possible future Tesla electric bus.

tesla electric bus

The Turkish episode

As reported by Electrive, the news of Elon Musk smoking a joint live during a tv program has brought to a reaction by Mehmet Gürbüz, the board chairman of the municipal transportation company in the Turkish province of Balıkesir. He had invited Musk to the city offering the possibility of a cooperation that could led to the purchase of 180 electric buses. That actually Tesla is not producing at all. Anyway, the invitation was sent… but the “negative example for the youth” given by Musk led to a withdraw of the proposal. “We find that Elon Musk’s behavior live on air would serve as a negative example for the youth, unacceptable for the fight against drugs. That’s why we give up on our goal to work with Tesla, and we retract our invitation to Elon Musk,” Gürbüz said according to local press.

Tesla Bus pictures ready in 2025?

In late 2023, as mentioned in the opening, Tesla fan page account published for two times pictures of buses with Tesla’s logo on the front.

In addition to its commercially successful passenger models, the American market is eagerly anticipating the arrival of the much-discussed Cybertruck, met with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Meanwhile, in the category of large trucks, the Tesla Semi has already made its mark.

Recently, discussions about the Tesla Bus, a project that has been in development since 2016, have resurfaced.

“We expect the Tesla Bus to borrow heavily from the Tesla Semi not only in terms of design but also on powertrain and architecture”, said a video published on the Youtube channel Tesla Car World. In the same video, that is said to be based on a review of Tesla master plan, the release date of the vehicle is stated to be 2025.

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