Electric bus technology has improved significantly over the past five years and can now handle most of the City of Edmonton’s bus service needs related to hours of operation, geographic distance, and temperature extremes. Another factor supporting the purchase decision was the availability of government funding.
Electric bus technology is where the public transit industry is headed. Edmonton is embracing innovation by adding some of these low-emission vehicles to its transportation fleet.
In 2017, the City put out a formal request for companies to bid on supplying electric buses for Edmonton. In 2018, the City will award the contract and ETS will put six electric buses through rigorous testing at our Centennial garage test centre. When the testing verifies the vehicles meet Edmonton’s strict performance needs, ETS will add up to 40 new electric buses in 2019 to its current fleet of over 900 vehicles. This purchase is part of ETS' commitment to exploring emerging technologies to create a more effective, efficient and environmentally responsible public transit service for Edmontonians.
The addition of electric buses is exciting for a couple of reasons. From an environmental perspective, electric buses will add 40% fewer emissions to the atmosphere than the efficient diesel buses ETS uses now. From a comfort perspective, the electric buses will come equipped with air conditioning, which is highly requested by our customers and operators.
There is no firm date as to when electric buses will become a major portion of Edmonton’s transit fleet. There are a number of factors that come into play, including availability of funding, government legislation and technological changes. A long term strategy for electric buses will be included in the capital budget cycle for 2019-2022.
The new Kathleen Andrews Transit Garage, which is scheduled to open in 2019, will have the capacity to operate and maintain the first 40 electric buses along with regular diesel buses. ETS is also designing upgrades to the southeast Ferrier Garage to handle some electric buses in future.
Electric buses put no emissions out of the tail pipe into Edmonton’s atmosphere. However, they are powered by electricity that is produced through coal-fired generating stations. The greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the production electricity used in the electric buses is 40% less than the greenhouse gas emissions required to produce the diesel used in the new standard buses in our fleet. We expect even more greenhouse gas reductions as Alberta shifts to cleaner sources of power generation.
Electric buses have different needs beyond what a diesel bus requires in a transit garage. Charging systems, electric generator backup and battery storage are a few of the garage updates required to support electric buses.
The Kathleen Andrews Transit Garage also will have solar panels. The roof-top solar panels will provide up to 750 kW of power during a sunny day, which is enough to fully charge 5 electric buses at the same time.
Electric buses are much quieter than current diesel powered buses. They also generate approximately 40% less greenhouse gas emissions than the latest 12 metres (40 feet) diesel buses. The electric bus motor has fewer moving parts so it will require less ongoing maintenance than a diesel motor.
Winter Feasibility Study Test
In 2015, ETS winter tested several electric buses to ensure the technology would be suitable for Edmonton’s cold weather, steep river valleys, and broad geographic transit service area. The results were included in a 2016 feasibility study presented to City Council.