Edmonton, Strathcona County launch pilot program for hydrogen-electric transit buses

The City of Edmonton and Strathcona County unveiled the new hydrogen-electric transit buses during the Electric and Hydrogen Vehicle Expo in Edmonton, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. Global News/Nicole Stillger

Electric transportation is evolving in Edmonton as the city unveiled its first ever hydrogen fuel-cell bus at the Electric and Hydrogen Vehicle Expo Saturday.

The city announced its plan to become carbon neutral by 2050 in 2021. Incorporating hydrogen-electric transport vehicles into Edmonton’s transit plan will help achieve that goal, said city planning and environment services branch manager, Kent Snyder.

“We want to be able to offer folks, Edmontonians the ability to achieve their climate goals personally that they have. And we know that they do. Climate is important to them…to be able to fit into their lifestyle that they currently have of getting around the community,” he said.

The pilot program will start with two buses, one in Strathcona County and one for the City of Edmonton. Edmonton mayor Amarjeet Sohi said they got a deal joining forces. One bus will be paid for by the city and the other by the county.

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“We know that people want transportation choices, whether they want to take a bus or ride a bike or walk or drive their own personal vehicles,” Sohi said during the event. “We understand that people will continue to prefer their own personal vehicles so that’s why it’s important that they understand there are choices out there for them to have a hydrogen vehicle or have an electric vehicle.”

Edmonton currently has 60 electric battery-operated buses — the first one hit streets in 2020 — but this program launches the first hydrogren-electric bus. The main difference between the two is with the hydrogen model “the energy is coming from the hydrogen into fuel cell… that combines with the oxygen and gives us the electricity to drive the bus itself,” explained Eddie Robar, Edmonton’s fleet and facility services branch manager.

While the hydrogen buses are a substantial investment, there is immediate return through climate impact, job creation, transit options, and the maintenance and operational costs are much lower than regular diesel-fueled buses, officials said.

The pilot program will allow officials to assess the impacts of Edmonton’s cold climate on hydrogen buses, transition facilities so they’re properly equipped for hydrogen-specific maintenance, and iron out any other kinks that may arise.

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— With files from Nicole Stillger, Global News

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