The municipalities of Charlottetown, Stratford and Cornwall are planning to convert two-thirds of transit buses from diesel to electric in the next six years.
The $24-million plan will be split between the municipalities, province and federal government. Right now the communities are looking for a consultant to come up with an overall design for the system, said Ramona Doyle, manager of environment and sustainability for the City of Charlottetown.
Three years ago Charlottetown staged a one-day demonstration of an electric transit bus, but Doyle said the city wasn't ready at that time to start converting buses from diesel to electric.
"We needed to buy ourselves a little bit more time with the existing type of diesel buses in order to support the system that we currently have," Doyle said.
"We are also facing COVID delays, which had a major impact on our transit ridership. So some of our development and growth plans did get sidetracked during that time. But now that things have started to come back to our new normal ... we're ready to really move forward on this more quickly."
Doyle, speaking for the Capital Area Transit Coordinating Committee, said they hope to purchase 12 electric transit buses to complement the existing diesel fleet.
"What the combination of the diesel and electric will do for us is that it will allow us to ease the electric buses into our system and ensure that we have those buses that can go on whenever we need them," said Doyle.
P.E.I. also recently bought 12 electric school buses that are already on the road.
Where will they charge?
Doyle said charging is "one of our more important questions that we have to answer" when it comes to electric buses.
She said the buses could be charged overnight and use up their batteries during the day, or there could be fast-charging units offered en route. Doyle said hiring a consultant will help decide what charging option is best to allow the electric buses to work with the existing fleet.
"When we do modelling for electric buses, we're looking at things like slope, how many people they'll be carrying, all of the sort of things that make an impact on the battery life," said Doyle. "We do have harsh winters here, and the heating the buses and air cooling the buses in the summertime is a drain on that battery."
Doyle said other cities like Winnipeg, Montreal, Toronto and Halifax have all introduced electric transit buses. "There's lots we can be learning from our neighbours," she said.
Doyle said the budget for the project will also go toward bus shelter and terminal improvements.
"This is the way of the future," Doyle said about electric buses.
These buses are part of Charlottetown's community energy plan and will help meet some of the city's targets for greenhouse gas emissions reduction, said Doyle. Electric buses are also quiet, and Doyle said she's heard from transit drivers that these buses are "really pleasant" to drive.
"I think over time you'll see transit authorities like ourselves and other places move to fully electric," she said. "But this gives us a little bit of flexibility to really integrate them in and train up our team, make sure that we're fully ready to be an electric transit service."
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