City of St. John's launches study on adding electric buses to public transit fleet

The City of St. John's is moving toward adding electric buses to its Metrobus fleet.  (Mark Quinn/CBC - image credit)
The City of St. John's is moving toward adding electric buses to its Metrobus fleet. (Mark Quinn/CBC - image credit)
Mark Quinn/CBC
Mark Quinn/CBC

The City of St. John's is looking into adding electric buses to its Metrobus fleet.

In a funding announcement Wednesday morning, the city said $200,000 will be spent on a feasibility study by the Canadian Urban Transit Research & Innovation Consortium.

CUTRIC is a non-profit organization that designs and launches zero-carbon mobility projects across Canada. The organization will determine the costs of implementing zero-emission buses in St. John's and analyze the risks, advantages and infrastructure requirements of transitioning to electric vehicles..

Sue Connor, a member of the organization's board of directors and the project lead for fleet electrification for the City of Burlington, said her city's transit fleet is similar to the one in St. John's in terms of the number of buses but the landscapes are completely different.

"Some of the challenges we don't have in Burlington that I think St. John's will face are the hills, which will be very interesting," she said.

"But the modelling will look at all that."

The funding announced Wednesday is split between the federal government's zero-emission transit fund contributing $160,000 and the city putting up $40,000.

It takes between a year to 18 months for an electric bus to be built and delivered, said Conner, adding each bus costs about $1.2 million. A diesel bus, she said, costs about $700,000 depending on its options.

Mark Quinn/CBC
Mark Quinn/CBC

Burlington is planning to add four electric buses to its fleet by 2025.

St. John's Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O'Leary said there's no time frame to have the entire 55-bus fleet switched to electric vehicles.

According to the city's greenhouse gas inventory, transportation represents 59 per cent of its emissions.

"We made a commitment at the City of St. John's to get to net zero by 2050. We're seeing that, of course, right across the country. It's our turn. We need to step up as well," O'Leary said.

"We're seeing it in every aspect of our society. I think it's a very exciting time."

O'Leary said she isn't sure when the first electric bus will hit city roads.

Metrobus general manager Judy Powell said it will take years for that to happen but the study should be completed by June.

"Moving to a zero-emission fleet is very complicated and expensive," she said.

"It requires planning, and transit systems that are ahead of us in this journey have certainly stressed very much how important planning is to be successful."

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