Lowering the numbers:

A fleet of electric buses purchased in 2021 is proving to be an asset in the race to reach net-zero emissions in the province.

In 2021, 35 electric school buses were added to the Public Schools Branch fleet of buses, bringing the total number of electric buses to 82 in the province.

The buses were purchased from Lion Electric, a Canadian manufacturer of zero-emission vehicles, to reduce the carbon footprint from the transportation sector.

The cost of the fleet, which was $12 million, was split between the federal and provincial governments.

A year later, statistics collected from the Public Schools Branch (PSB) show the buses are already saving the province money in fuel costs, while also reducing carbon emissions from the transportation sector.

“A comparison has been made of the electrical expenses of electric buses we have operating, with fuel costs for the same number of our fossil fuel buses that travel a relatively similar number of kilometres in similar conditions and terrain,” wrote a spokesperson for PSB in a statement to SaltWire Network on Jan. 6.

So far, the cost of running the electric buses is about 25 per cent of operating a similar number of buses that use fossil fuels.

Transportation accounts for the highest percentage of carbon emissions in the province at 41 per cent. Although it’s still early to know how much the buses have reduced this number, over time it is expected to go down, the statement read.

“One diesel-powered bus generates 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, whereas one electric-powered bus generates three tonnes CO2 annually, a reduction of approximately 85 per cent,” the statement read.

Currently, the plan is to convert the entire PSB fleet to electric within the next 10 years.

The 2022 five-year capital plan of the Department of Education and Lifelong Learning includes the purchase of 125 electric school buses over five years at an estimated cost of $51 million.

"Electrifying our transportation will make a big difference in reaching our climate goals and achieving our target to become Canada’s first net-zero province," the statement read.

P.E.I. is not the only Maritime province looking to electrify its bus fleet.

In Halifax, the municipal government has taken note of the progress made on P.E.I. and is looking to purchase several dozen electric buses which it plans to implement into its fleet over the next year.

Maggie-Jane Spray, public affairs advisor with Halifax Regional Municipality, HRM, told SaltWire Network in a statement on Jan. 10 the first phase of fleet electrification is part of a project worth $112 million that includes the purchase of buses, chargers, training and equipment.

“Later phases are not yet fully costed, but they will also include major supporting infrastructure projects,” said Spray.

The electrification of the fleet aligns with the municipality’s climate action plan and includes a target to electrify the entire transit fleet by 2030.

The first phase of electrification in HRM will include the purchase of 60 electric buses, which replaces a significant portion of the current fleet.

The new buses are expected to roll out in 2023 and into 2024.

“We’re looking forward to taking this step in the right direction,” said Spray.

Rafe Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian