Electric buses the City of Windsor has been looking to buy have had several safety issues during test runs in South Carolina.

The City of Seneca, S.C., has been testing four of the buses made by Proterra.

Seneca's planning director, Ed Halbig, confirmed to CBC News a list of problems, including:

  • A cracked windshield.
  • A bus that shifted from drive into neutral while running.
  • Headlights that blew off in the wind.
  • A driver's side window that fell out while the bus was on Highway 123.

The problems were made public in March through an investigation by WYFF News 4, which obtained the bus service records from Seneca.

Halbig would only confirm the problems as facts and declined to make further comments to CBC Windsor.

Proterra said in an email to CBC Windsor it "stands by our products unconditionally."

"It’s important for you and those in Windsor to know that these issues are isolated, and that Proterra buses are performing in daily revenue service in many cities across the U.S.," Proterra spokesperson JoAnne Abed of Jackson Marketing Group wrote in an email to CBC News.

Abed said Proterra buses are being used in Worcester, Mass.; Reno, Nev.; San Joaquin Valley, Calif.; Pomona, Calif; San Antonio, Texas; and Tallahassee, Fla.

"Many of these communities, convinced of the value and performance of the buses, have already agreed to purchase additional buses."

Company CEO Garrett Makita told CBC Windsor in the same statement also issued to WYFF News 4 that "we recognize that there has been some public concern about the delay in getting EV buses into revenue service in Seneca."

Halbig also confirmed to CBC Windsor that his city has asked for a third-party investigator to sign off on the buses before they are put into full-time use.

"Third party inspections have taken place, resulting in additional attention to our buses from the manufacturer," Halbig said in an additional email to CBC Windsor.

According to WYFF News 4, the buses were to be in service three months ago.

Meanwhile, in Windsor, Mayor Eddie Francis said Tuesday that a deal with Proterra could be finalized by June.   

“Put this into perspective, though,” Francis said.

Francis said four buses from a first generation are nothing to worry about.

“Obviously we know what we’re doing. You can make a story about anything you want but to say four buses of a first generation are going to be dangerous on the city streets, that’s unfortunate,” Francis said. “We haven’t done the pilot yet, we haven’t ordered the buses.”

Neither Francis or Marra said how many buses Windsor is looking to buy or at what cost.

It's been reported that a single bus could cost nearly $1 million.

Proterra declined to comment on potential sales to the city of Windsor.

"In terms of Windsor, corporate policy forbids us from commenting on any specific bids or sales situations," Abed said.

Coun. Bill Marra, who is also the chair of the transit board, called the issues in South Carolina "certainly concerning but it's not surprising."

"When you're rolling out any type of new technology, you expect to see things that won't go right. That's the whole intent to run a pilot project," he said. "You have to safeguard yourself. Let's test it out, see what works really well, let's see if we can get those addressed."

Marra wants a 12-month pilot of any electric bus the city considers buying.

Marra said Tuesday that any agreement with Proterra will come under close scrutiny.

"As much as I support looking at a pilot project for an electric bus, my focus is on improving the current service and expanding into the region," Marra said. "I think that should be the priority of council.

"Our issue is not introducing new technology. There are issues improving our current service."