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Politics

Winnipeg’s New Flyer Industries growing, but still no expansion plan for local fleet

File photo of two quick-charging electric busses operating on the 36 - Monk bus route in Montreal, with a charging station above.
File photo of two quick-charging electric busses operating on the 36 - Monk bus route in Montreal, with a charging station above. STM Archives

A local company is adding electric buses to the fleet of another major Canadian city, but electric buses in Winnipeg are still virtually non-existent.

New Flyer Industries, which is responsible for producing slow-charging buses, announced on Friday plans to add 40 electric buses to Montreal and Laval for a $43.2 million price tag.

READ MORE: Montreal, Laval team up to buy 40 electric buses

It marks a foray into two more cities for a company that has rapidly expanded throughout North America in the last three years. According to their website, New Flyer currently serves 24 of the 25 largest transit agencies in North America, and supports over 400 transit agencies in total.

But at home in Winnipeg, only four New Flyer buses are on the road.

There are 623 total buses in the Winnipeg Transit fleet.

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RELATED: City should look to add 12-20 electric buses: report

Earlier this year, Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires said that her government was “in ongoing conversations at the federal level and looking forward to conversations at the city level” concerning adding electric buses.

But pushed on the topic Monday, her office said she had nothing further to add about the fleet.

Both the City of Winnipeg and Mayor Brain Bowman said they’re committed to electrifying buses, but are still reviewing the results of a pilot project started in 2014.

New Flyer Industries’ [NFI Group Inc.] Jennifer McNeill said the company “stands by ready to support” but that they “aren’t really aware of what plans will be”.

All three levels of government need to be on the same page, and after Winnipeg Transit had their budget slashed in 2017, the task seems even more complex.

Money is at the forefront of the discussions, as electric buses cost between $130,000 and $160,000 more per bus than a diesel unit.

READ MORE: Winnipeg’s New Flyer Industries plugging in to Transit fleet upgrade

The transit union offered up plans for a shared-financing deal earlier this year that proposed a “pay as you save model”, with the province providing the city with an interest-free loan to cover the difference in cost for the electric buses.

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Winnipeg Transit would then pay back the loan with revenue from operating efficiencies generated from the electric buses.

That model has been reviewed, but both the province and city have yet to openly commit to any plans.

All New Flyer buses have passed cold-weather testing.