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Edmonton could begin getting out of the diesel bus system in 2020

An Edmonton Transit System bus.
An Edmonton Transit System bus. File/Global News

Edmonton Transit has been given the go ahead to purchase its fleet of electric buses. It marks what will be the end of an era. After 2020, the city likely will be past the point of ever buying diesel buses again.

“If we’re able to construct Ferrier Garage quickly then it could be 2020,” ETS general manager Eddie Robar confirmed after gaining approval Tuesday from city council’s executive committee.

“It depends on that Ferrier Garage construction.”

He said the conversion and construction cost of the southeast Edmonton facility will be somewhere between $10 million and $20 million.

“That will give us a capability, capacity of 120 vehicles. So that gives us two years of purchases where we can switch from diesel to electrics. But we have to have that facility complete before we can do that.”

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Robar said with more than 900 buses in Edmonton’s fleet, handling the conversion over the coming years will be an enormous task.

“It’s one of the older fleets in Canada. So part of the commitment on the 55 buses a year is being a bit more aggressive to kind of smooth some of that out so this fleet in Edmonton, we’re looking at a good replacement strategy for that fleet. Part of that is going to be this electric approach, as well, so we’ll just reap a bigger benefit out of it.”

They’ll start with five, to make sure all of the kinks are out, then will purchase 35 and move on from there. Robar said the industry hit a milestone in the past 12 months, which helped ETS select the type of charging system they’ll go with.

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It will also help ETS firm up the route readjustment it’s going through.

“If you’ve got a 500-km bus, that gives you that flexibility that you need to not even worry about having to refuel or do anything like that. Diesel offers that opportunity for us.

READ MORE: Edmonton transit strategy outlines drastic shift in service, aligns supply with demand

“However, now with the industry and it’s evolving so fast that those buses are available now, also in electric. So just in that year there’s already been an evolution in the product to get the range of buses that we’re looking to get, and we’re excited about that.

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“We went with the trickle charger long-range vehicle to try to get the kilometres we need – charge overnight – get the kilomtres that we need for the entire day of service and make sure we have that serviceability on the street when you talk about the operation itself.”

READ MORE: Edmonton hoping for transit money after Calgary funding announcement

Those who sell buses care about this order too. The vendors want to be able to say they were able to make a sale in Edmonton.

“If they work in Edmonton, they can work anywhere,” Robar said.

City council first approved the purchase plan in an in-private meeting last week. When they voted in favour of the fleet overhaul they decided then that this information should be made public, so they reaffirmed the vote at Tuesday’s committee meeting.