Leveraging a $400-million investment from the Canadian Infrastructure Bank, the second of two municipal transit investments by the CIB this month, Ottawa is set to convert its entire fleet to electric buses in 15 years
The City of Ottawa has announced a plan to introduce an entirely zero-emission transit fleet.
The plan includes phasing into service 450 battery electric buses by 2027, with its entire fleet — currently 939 buses — converted to electric by 2036.
The proposed agreement between the city, the federal government and the Canadian Infrastructure Bank (CIB) would see the CIB invest up to $400 million to support OC Transpo, Ottawa’s transit authority, in purchasing the buses. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson described it as “one of the largest ever municipal investments in zero-emission transit in Canadian history,” at the deal’s unveiling in Ottawa.
While the agreement has been announced in principle, it is currently pending approval by Ottawa’s Transit Commission and City Council, which are to vote on the matter June 16 and June 23 respectively.
“Switching from diesel buses to battery-electric is one of the most impactful actions we can take to meet Ottawa’s goal of reducing by 100 per cent the GHGs emitted from city operations by 2040. This historic investment in zero-emission transit brings us one a step closer to achieving that goal and transitioning Ottawa into a clean, renewable and resilient city that is ready for the future,” said Watson.
Immediate plan for 74 e-buses
The first phase of the proposed deal would see OC Transpo purchase 74 electric buses, along with the required charging infrastructure, as part of the city’s budget next year. Those buses would enter into service by 2023.
“Cleaner air, quieter streets, and a planet safe for our kids — that’s the goal. By partnering with the City of Ottawa, the Canada Infrastructure Bank will help bring 450 new zero-emission buses to the streets of Ottawa, towards our commitment of 5,000 more zero emission buses across the country,” said Catherine McKenna, federal minister of infrastructure and communities, at the agreement’s announcement.
“It’s part of the government’s plan to create good jobs and kickstart the economy, tackle climate change, and build more inclusive communities.”
OC Transpo currently has a fleet of 939 buses, the vast majority of which are diesel-powered and would be eventually phased out of use should this plan be approved. According to a report prepared for the city’s Transit Commission, the transition process will cost a total of $986 million in its first five years, with each bus running $1.3 million.
Although zero-emission buses (ZEBs) have a higher up-front cost than their diesel counterparts, the vehicles bring significant savings in the long term. CIB staff have estimated that upkeep for the electric buses will be about 65 per cent of that of the current diesel vehicles, while fuel costs will be only about 40 per cent. The ZEBs will also bring Ottawa a great deal closer to their goal of reducing GHG emissions by 100 per cent by 2040.
“CIB’s financing, in the form of direct loans, will cover the higher upfront capital costs of ZEBs and charging infrastructure versus equivalent diesel buses,” explains Félix Corriveau, senior director, communications and media relations with the CIB.
Once the plan is approved, the city will issue a tender for the immediate purchase. Ottawa last year ordered four zero-emission buses from Winnipeg-based New Flyer and that company, along with Quebec-based electric bus makers Lion Electric and Nova Bus, are seen as potential domestic providers.
“I am delighted the CIB is making a major investment in the City of Ottawa’s ZEB initiative. 450 new zero-emission buses is a really big deal. Our partnership will help the City meet its climate targets and provide cleaner public transportation for future generations,” said Ehren Cory, president and CEO, Canada Infrastructure Bank.
CIB also investing in Edmonton transit
Ottawa is the second city to benefit from the CIB’s zero-emission bus initiative — a $1.5-billion allotment intended to assist municipalities in the transition to electric public transit. Earlier in June, the CIB announced an agreement in principle with the city of Edmonton to invest $14.4 million towards the purchase of 20 ZEBs for the Edmonton Transit Service.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to modernize municipal infrastructure and build healthier communities. The CIB looks to invest in projects which improve the quality of life for Canadians, and this is a great example of that.”
Other Canadian cities that plan to deploy or have deployed fully electric buses in their transit fleets include Vancouver, Toronto, Oakville, Hamilton and Halifax. In addition to the CIB program, the federal government in March announced that it would invest an additional $2.75 billion towards helping transit providers purchase 5,000 zero-emission buses over the next five years.