Electric Buses in Service
In August 2020, Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) achieved a major milestone by deploying its first battery-electric buses into service. This historic moment was the result of collaboration between many City of Edmonton areas including ETS, Transit Fleet Maintenance, Fleet and Facilities Services, Corporate Procurement and Supply Services, and the electric bus supplier, Proterra.
ETS’ 40 electric buses is one of the single largest purchases of electric buses in Canadian history. All 40 buses have been deployed into service. ETS is also the first transit agency in North America to have overhead chargers inside transit facilities. Charging from above, rather than using floor-mounted plug-in chargers, greatly reduces the amount of floor space needed for charging. The buses take roughly one to four hours to recharge, depending on the level of charge when they return to the garage.
Proterra’s clean and quiet electric buses are winter compatible, have a range up to 350 kilometres on a single charge, and contribute to the City’s shift toward more sustainable transportation, a lower carbon footprint, and high-quality transit service for Edmontonians. Transit customers will enjoy a clean, quiet and smooth ride.
Electric buses can operate on almost every ETS route, and all buses come equipped with protective Operator shields. Electric buses are roughly 30% less expensive to service and maintain than current diesel buses, plus savings on the cost of fuel.
Some of the electric buses in ETS’ fleet have an eye-catching promotional wrap on the back half of the bus that clearly indicates the bus is electric, while others are painted with ETS’ traditional blue and silver brand colours.
Electric buses are housed at the new Kathleen Andrews Transit Garage in northeast Edmonton, and Centennial Garage. Kathleen Andrews Transit Garage is the main hub for electric buses. Training continues for bus operators, ETS inspectors, superintendents, instructors, fleet and facility staff, and first responders.
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 area. The results were included in a 2016 feasibility study presented to City Council. The electric buses were also tested on steep Edmonton hills, using heavy sandbags to simulate full passengers loads.
Funding through Emissions Reduction Alberta
In 2019, ETS, in partnership with energy storage firm eCAMION and the Universities of Alberta and Calgary, were selected as one of sixteen winners for funding through Emissions Reduction Alberta's (ERA) 'BEST' Challenge for clean technology projects across Alberta.
This funding (about $9 million total) will contribute to important research and development for energy storage for ETS' electric bus program at Kathleen Andrews Transit Garage. The funding will also set the stage for significant cost savings for expanding the electric bus program to other transit garages.
Electric bus technology has improved significantly over the past five years and can now handle 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 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.
ETS’ electric buses will produce zero tailpipe emissions*, be much quieter, and require less ongoing maintenance compared to current diesel buses (since an electric motor has fewer moving parts than a diesel engine). Electric buses can also produce up to 510hp compared to roughly 300hp for the latest diesel buses.
*Except for a small amount of auxiliary heater emissions, which occur in extreme winter temperatures.
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.