October 18, 2021

From blades to buses

TPI supplements wind energy efforts with electric bus bodies

TPI Composites has continued to expand its green energy efforts with the implementation of a second plant in Newton dedicated to producing zero-emission electric bus bodies.

In November 2017, TPI Composites announced it was entering into a five-year supply agreement with Proterra, Inc. to create up to 3,350 composite bus bodies within that particular time period. The Newton manufacturer, which also produces composite wind blades, opened the bus plant in July 2018, Newton Development Corporation (NDC) Executive Director Frank Liebel said.

TPI Composites successfully shipped its first, composite bus body in August 2018 to a Proterra, Inc. assembly factory in California. To house its composite bus making facility, the Newton manufacturing company renovated Building 142 of the old Maytag Plant 2, which had been out of production for nearly 11 years, NDC said in a newsletter.

NDC expected the bus plant to house 150 employees by the end of 2018 and will likely continue to grow.

In the August 2018 NDC newsletter, TPI Composites leadership said it was “greatly appreciative of the tremendous support” from the City of Newton, NDC and several other groups involved in the “successful start-up of the new bus operations.”

Proterra, Inc. designs and manufactures heavy-duty, battery-electric transit buses, the bodies of which are supplied by TPI Composites. The company strives to reduce operating costs “while delivering clean, quiet transportation to local communities across the United States.”

The bus composites created by TPI are for Proterra’s catalyst battery-electric vehicles. Even after they are fully completed and affixed with their operational equipment, customers can upgrade their buses to “meet changing needs throughout the vehicles’ life,” according to the Proterra website. They can also choose between two bus sizes and select their energy level and charging solutions.

According to a press release, the composite bus bodies “utilize a combination of reinforcement materials including fiberglass and carbon fiber,” making it a fairly lightweight structure. Since the weight of the body has been reduced, the company claimed it now has the ability to use “alternative fuel sources such as electric, hybrid electric or CNG (compressed natural gas).”

In 2017, Proterra CEO Ryan Popple said, “As cities and municipalities throughout North America transition to zero-emission buses, TPI’s expanded manufacturing footprint and advanced composites technology will help us to scale the production of our electric buses and cost-effectively serve our California and South Carolina factories in the United States.”

TPI Composites is the top employer in town with more than 1,000 workers on staff. The company also manufactures its composite bus bodies in Warren, R.I., in addition to Newton. TPI headquarters is located in Scottsdale, Ariz., and operates factories in China, Mexico and Turkey. Construction of a new India facility was announced in January.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com