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 quiet, clean-running, low-emission electric buses to its 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. After the new electric buses arrive in mid-to-late 2019, ETS will put these initial buses through rigorous system testing and verification at our Centennial Garage test centre. When the testing verifies the buses meet Edmonton’s strict performance needs, ETS will acquire additional electric buses in 2020. This purchase is part of the City’s' 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. From an environmental perspective, electric buses emit 40% fewer emissions than the efficient diesel buses ETS uses now. From a drivetrain perspective, electric buses can produce up to 510hp compared to roughly 300hp for the latest diesel buses. From a noise and comfort perspective, electric buses will be much quieter and 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 Kathleen Andrews Transit Garage, which is scheduled to open in 2019, will have the capacity to operate and maintain electric buses along with regular diesel buses. ETS is also designing upgrades to the southeast Ferrier Garage to handle some electric buses in the future.
Electric buses produce zero tailpipe emissions. However, they are powered by electricity produced through coal-fired generating stations. The emissions from the production of electricity used in electric buses is 40% lower than the emissions from diesel used in the new standard buses in our fleet. We expect even more emission 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 garage updates required to support electric buses.
Electric buses are much quieter than current diesel buses. They also emit 40% fewer emissions than the latest 40-foot diesel buses. Electric buses can also produce up to 510hp compared to roughly 300hp for the latest diesel buses. The electric motor also has fewer moving parts so it requires 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.