Mon. Feb 26th, 2024

The aggressive electrification of Canada's largest carrier

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The charging systems are part of a project that received five million dollars from the City.

  • Mouaad El Yaakabi (View profile)Mouaad El Yaakabi

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It's a smooth, green revolution taking place at the Toronto Transit Commission (TCT) and which should lead it towards an entirely carbon neutral.

This transformation began in 2017, with the purchase of 60 vehicles as part of a pilot project.

A timid first step by a cautious management, we were burned before the adoption of new technologies and this created resistance to this kind of innovation, remembers Bem Case, the executive director of innovation and sustainable development.

The market at the time was so modest that the only three manufacturers present on the Canadian market were invited to collaborate directly with the carrier in the development of a first specification.

This trial run allows the CTT to get a better idea of ​​a technology that is still young and perfectible, and to draw up a sketch of the future generation of electric buses that she would like to see roaming the streets of the Queen City.

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ELSEWHERE ON INFO: The future CEO of the Santé Québec agency will earn $543,000 and have a driver

It wasn't just a question of whether the battery worked, explains Bem Case, we took the opportunity to test a whole bunch of other things besides propulsion, like different door systems, steering and suspension systems, different handles.

The CTT even goes so far as to test different seating arrangements.

To complete the evaluation of vehicle performance and their maintenance, drivers are asked to give their feedback and surveys are carried out with passengers to gauge the customer experience, so we could evaluate technically and subjectively what worked best, summarizes Bem Case.

As with the city of Edmonton, the CTT experienced problems with one of the suppliers, Proterra. The capital of Alberta had also acquired around sixty buses, all from the American supplier, and experienced bad luck, with battery life problems and lack of spare parts.

Proterra eventually declared bankruptcy.

Thousands of kilometers later and thanks to provincial and municipal financial support of $700 million, the CTT placed an order for 340 new electric buses last April, for delivery scheduled for 2025.

Two Canadian companies share the contract: New Flyer from Winnipeg and the Quebec company Nova Bus.

We won 60 percent of the market, says Jennifer McNeil, New Fyer's vice president of sales. The Manitoba company will equip the CTT with the Xcelsior CHARGE NG, featuring a modular battery system.

It is very important to As technology develops, to provide a very flexible way to improve technology without having to redesign the bus, she explains.

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The carrier is pleased to reach the target imposed by the city in advance.

Facing economic difficulties following the drop in ridership, financial support from public institutions proved decisive.

Subsidies and assistance programs reduce the initial investment costs of these vehicles, explains Meena Bibra of Clean Energy Canada, while recalling the long-term financial interest due to low prices. With the almost minimal electricity and maintenance costs of this type of vehicle, considerable savings are made over their entire lifespan.

The pilot project was also funded by the federal public transit infrastructure fund.

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At the time it placed an order for these new electric vehicles, other buses, this time hybrid, were delivered, the first in a series of 336.

This is the other leg on which the ecological transition initiated by the CTT is based, which announced that after this delivery, it would only purchase electric vehicles.

The last thermal diesel bus was purchased in 2018 and will be withdrawn from service in 2031, the last hybrid bus should be taken out of service in 2037, at which point we will have a fully electric fleet, three years earlier the objective of TransformTO, welcomes Bem Case, referring to the City's objective of a carbon-neutral fleet by 2040.

The CTT and its 2,000 buses are part of the equation, as are the Toronto police and ambulances.

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For Professor Catherine Morency, investing primarily in electric buses is not the best strategy more efficient in ecological terms.

For Professor Catherine Morency, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Personal Mobility and professor at Polytechnique Montréal, this aggressive electrification is not the most effective in a constrained financial context: If we have a limited amount of money and we are wondering about the best investment today, we would be better off increasing the level of service.

Although she insists that no one is against the electrification of buses, she still maintains that the trade-off in terms of financial and environmental costs can be improved. An observation shared by the user defense organization TTC Riders.

However, for Meena Bibra, visibility is important and the positive message sent by Canada's most populous city transitioning to zero emissions is also important.

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