TTC to buy elec­tric-bat­tery buses in move to­ward emis­sion-free goal,


For the first time in its his­tory the TTC is plan­ning to buy buses pow­ered ex­clu­sively by on-board elec­tric bat­ter­ies, mark­ing an im­por­tant step for­ward for the tran­sit agency’s plans to green its fleet by 2040.

A re­port go­ing be­fore the TTC’s board on Mon­day rec­om­mends pur­chas­ing 30 so-called “bat­tery elec­tric buses” by 2019, which would po­si­tion the agency at the fore­front of in­tro­duc­ing the emis­sions-free ve­hi­cles into reg­u­lar ser­vice in Canada.

Bem Case, head of ve­hi­cle pro­grams for the TTC, said as the coun­try’s largest mu­nic­i­pal tran­sit agency, “we see that we should be tak­ing more of a lead­er­ship role in the in­tro­duc­tion of new tech­nol­ogy.”

The ini­tial elec­tric bus pur­chase, which would cost up to $50 mil­lion, is “not a test,” Case said.

“It’s the first step in the adop­tion of this tech­nol­ogy . . . We’re buy­ing these buses, so we’re com­mit­ted to mak­ing them work.”

The re­port rec­om­mends di­vid­ing the or­der for 30 buses be­tween up to three dif­fer­ent sup­pli­ers. That would al­low the agency to con­duct what it says would be the first long-term, head-to-head com­par­i­son of dif­fer­ent elec­tric bus mod­els.

The TTC would mea­sure each ve­hi­cle’s re­li­a­bil­ity, bat­tery range, op­er­at­ing and main­te­nance costs, and cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence in or­der to in­form fu­ture, larger pur­chases. The ex­er­cise would also help other tran­sit agen­cies hop­ing to adopt the tech­nol­ogy.

Toronto’s Trans­for­mTO cli­mate change ac­tion plan, which coun­cil passed in July, sets a tar­get of cut­ting green­house gas emis­sions by 80 per cent, com­pared to 1990 lev­els, by 2050.

In or­der to achieve that goal, the TTC has en­dorsed the C40 Fos­silFuel-Free Streets Dec­la­ra­tion, un­der which the agency plans to start ex­clu­sively pur­chas­ing emis­sion-free buses by 2025. By 2040, the TTC plans to have phased out its older ve­hi­cles and have a com­pletely emis­sion-free fleet.

The agency is also look­ing into buses pow­ered by hy­dro­gen fuel cells as an op­tion, but ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the tech­nol­ogy isn’t ma­ture enough to adopt yet.

Gideon For­man, trans­porta­tion pol­icy an­a­lyst for the David Suzuki Foun­da­tion, said the green bus plan is “hugely im­por­tant” to meet­ing the city’s cli­mate change tar­gets.

“Don’t for­get that the sin­gle largest source of green­house gases in On­tario now is trans­porta­tion,” he said. “So the TTC’s con­tri­bu­tion is vi­tal.”

There are just 195 bat­tery elec­tric buses in ser­vice across North Amer­ica, ac­cord­ing to the TTC re­port, and only about 10 in all of Canada.

Mon­treal, Win­nipeg and St. Al­bert, Atla., are ex­per­i­ment­ing with the tech­nol­ogy.

The TTC has de­ployed elec­tric bus tech­nol­ogy be­fore, in­clud­ing trol­ley buses, which were de­com­mis­sioned in the 1990s.

The agency ac­knowl­edges there are “in­her­ent risks” to buy­ing bat­tery elec­tric buses. At a cost of at least $1 mil­lion each, their up­front costs are also much greater than con­ven­tional diesel buses, which sell for about $700,000.

Case said the op­er­a­tional risks will be mit­i­gated by the fact that the TTC is mak­ing a small ini­tial pur­chase. The fi­nan­cial bur­den would be shared by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, as the agency plans to tap into Ot­tawa’s pub­lic tran­sit in­fras­truc­ture fund for 50 per cent of the cost. Be­cause bat­tery elec­tric buses have fewer me­chan­i­cal parts than tra­di­tional diesel ve­hi­cles, long-term main­te­nance costs could also be lower.

Case said the TTC plans to ro­tate them through routes with high pas­sen­ger vol­umes and steep in­clines to “put them through their paces.”


There are 195 bat­tery elec­tric buses in ser­vice across North Amer­ica and 10 in Canada, ac­cord­ing to a TTC re­port.

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