London Transit Commission approves $83K feasibility study into electrifying its bus fleet

The LTC says passengers must enter through the rear door between March 20 and April 5. Marty Thompson / 980 CFPL

The London Transit Commission (LTC) is taking a big step forward towards electrifying its fleet.

A staff report suggesting the commission launch a feasibility study at a cost of $83,000 was received and unanimously approved at Wednesday’s LTC meeting.

“The starting point for anything like this that is such a massive project is to have someone tell us what we need to do to get it done,” LTC chair and city councillor Phil Squire told Global News Radio 980 CFPL ahead of the meeting.

Squire explained that this report was in the works before Mayor Ed Holder announced at the State of the City address that he’d like London to have an all-electric bus fleet.

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“He indicated and he’s indicated to me it was an aspirational sort of statement and we agree,” said Squire.

“We’re going to move forward, but people should not think that next year they’re going to see all electric buses in the City of London. It’s just too big a project.”

Squire added that the report outlined two main hurdles: technology and cost.

“The biggest challenge with electric buses is: how do you power them? How do you charge them? The second issue is, of course, the money issue.”

The report notes that electric buses are estimated to cost nearly twice as much as the same-size diesel bus. As well, an in-depot charger costs about $130,000 while an on-street opportunity charger can run $1.5-million.

Staff also recommended in the report that the feasibility study be undertaken by the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC). Currently, CUTRIC is in the midst of the Pan-Canadian Electric Bus Demonstration and Integration Trial.

According to the report, the trial “is deploying electric buses and overhead chargers” to York Region, Vancouver, and Brampton. The Toronto Transit Commission is also undertaking a pilot project with electric buses.

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The data collected will provide London with critical information to allow for informed decisions “with respect to the roll-out of similar technology in London,” the report reads.

Squire also stressed that in the interim, public transit is a better environmental choice than personal vehicles.

“Studies show that municipal bus services contribute less than 1 per cent of greenhouse gases in the communities that they operate. So people can do something right now, even though we don’t have electric buses, which is to start riding buses,” Squire said.

“It’s much better having people on buses with less than 1 per cent of greenhouse gases in a community, as opposed to cars which contribute about 30 per cent.”

Administration is expected to report back on the next steps at a future transit commissioners meeting. In a tweet Wednesday night, Councillor Jesse Helmer said the study will begin in March and wrap up in July.

Click to play video: 'TTC staff table proposed 10-year plan for infrastructure, new vehicles'
TTC staff table proposed 10-year plan for infrastructure, new vehicles

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