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Million-dollar, zero-emission electric transit bus used on Charlottetown routes



CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Charlottetown residents may have gotten a glimpse of the future of transit this week in the form of a bright, orange electric bus.

“Now is the tipping point,” said Matthew Cassidy, vice-president of T3 Transit. “The wave of electric buses is coming. And, do you want to be at the front of the wave or do you want to be following behind the wave?

“We’re saying now is the time to be talking about it, to come up with a plan and make the decision of how we want to go forward.”

Thursday, a group that included politicians and members of the media got to take a ride on the 35-foot, New Flyer Canada zero emission, battery-electric Xcelsior Charge demo bus, and learn more about what it can do.

The bus arrived in Charlottetown on Monday, and Tuesday and Wednesday was put to work on city routes transporting customers.

“I’m amazed at how quiet it is and how smooth it is,” said Cassidy.

The bus comes with a price tag of around $1 million, roughly double the price of a diesel bus, said Barry Dykeman, regional sales manager for New Flyer Canada, the bus’s manufacturer.

The bus has 32 seats with standing room for another 35 passengers. There is also a wheelchair lift.

It has a capacity of 390 kilowatt hours of energy, on which can drive approximately 310 kilometres. Dykeman said the bus ran for 12 hours one day this week, and had about 45 per cent of its battery charge remaining.

The bus uses lithium-ion batteries to store energy and it has an electric drive motor, but there’s no transmission.

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“Energy comes from the batteries, goes to the motor, it starts turning, turns the drive shaft, turns the wheels,” said Dykeman. 

T3 is a private operator that provides drivers, fuel and maintenance for the buses. Currently, T3 operates 12 buses and runs 11 routes a day in Charlottetown, Stratford and Cornwall.

The municipalities own the buses, said Cassidy.

Having a demo this week will help determine the feasibility of electric buses and inform a recommendation about the best options going forward, including adding electric buses to the fleet.

Cassidy suggested that eight to 10 electric buses could be a fit for eight transit routes that amount to 200 to 250 kilometres a day.

“We need to modernize our fleet,” he said. “Transit and electric transit are definitely at the forefront of a lot of cities’ plans because a lot of cities have climate change emissions targets now. And, transportation is usually the biggest component of any city’s greenhouse gas emissions. So, electric transit buses are very much low-hanging fruit to be able to do that.”

Cassidy would like to see T3 using electric buses on the roads “the sooner the better.”

“It’s 2018. It’s a very topical conversation. I think it’s part of our responsibility as a company to be forefront leaders in climate change,” he said. “The best part about this is opening people’s eyes about what’s possible for a transit system.”

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