Starting this summer, Edmontonians will see electric buses rolling down the road – as two test buses hit the streets ahead of a 50-bus roll-out in 2020.
The City of Edmonton recently received grant funding from both the province and the federal government to help purchase dozens of electric buses to replace old diesel buses as they reach the end of their lifespan.
“These buses are obviously going to be fantastic for the environment, but they’re also going to save us money on the operating side of things too,” Councillor Andrew Knack said.
“When we were debating this a few years ago, we had some really detailed business cases that showed while the bus costs a little bit more up front, the actual operating cost of this is far less than our standard buses. How do you go wrong in a situation where you’re getting better value for money overall and we’re helping achieve our environmental objectives that we’re working on as a city?”
The environmental impact will be significant. Then there’s the dollars and cents of it to consider too.
The buses being purchased from Proterra cost about $1.2 million each — double the cost of your average diesel bus. But there are other savings down the road.
“Each bus that we replace, it’s 40 per cent less GHGs (greenhouse gases) that go into the atmosphere. That is one huge benefit,” said ETS branch manager Eddie Robar.
“Moving into what this does on the maintenance side of our fleet — the maintenance cost of an electric bus versus a diesel bus — it’s about 30 per cent cheaper.”
The electric buses are also much quieter.
Over time those savings will allow the Edmonton Transit Service to invest in new and additional services, without raising costs to the taxpayer or riders.
But you can’t switch over a fleet overnight. There are infrastructure changes needed to accommodate electric buses as well.
“It’s more than just the bus. It’s how you charge the bus. It’s where you get the power. It’s how you store the power. That’s the stuff we’ve been learning through this process,” Robar said.
The city will be building a new transit garage thanks to provincial funding through Alberta Community Transit (ACT). That garage will be designed for both diesel and electric buses, to aid in the conversion of the fleet over time.
“We chose to do with a long-range charge bus because that gives us effectively the same bus we have, the capability we have with our diesel bus today — we can do the same things with our electric bus,” Robar explained.
“We get a full service day from that bus. We’re able to apply it to any route or any location in the city. We’re not restricted by where we need to charge the bus at what time of day. It goes back to the garage, it charges overnight and it’s back out for a full day of service the next day.”
Two buses will arrive this summer to do some additional testing, including the charging infrastructure of the Kathleen Andrews garage off Fort Road.
If all goes to plan, the remaining 48 buses will arrive in November, officially hitting the streets in January 2020.
The Toronto Transit Commission is also investing in electric buses, purchasing 60 of them from three manufacturers. They are expected to arrive in Toronto by the end of 2019.