School children running to catch School bus
The Student Transportation of Canada (STC), a national school transportation company may soon add 1,000 all-electric school buses built by Quebec manufacturer Lion Electric. Photo: Lion Electric

The order, for Lion Electric buses, still hinges on financial support from the federal Zero Emission Transit Fund. If approved, Student Transportation of Canada will become the largest operator of zero-emission school buses in the country

Student Transportation of Canada (STC), a national school transportation company that operates under its own name and that of a half-dozen regional brands, may soon be the proud operator of 1,000 all-electric school buses built by Quebec manufacturer Lion Electric.

The deal is predicated on the approval of the STC’s grant application to Infrastructure Canada’s Zero Emission Transit Fund (ZETF) and on school boards agreeing to deploy the electric buses.

“We are pleased to support electric school bus deployment in Canada. The ZETF enables school bus electrification to move closer to reality, with students as the true beneficiaries,” said Chris Harwood, president of Student Transportation of Canada in a press release.

“There is still much more work to be done, but STC recognizes that as global stewards we must act to operate sustainably. Electrification is a huge step toward improving the environment for our students and the communities we serve.”

STC is the Canadian division of Student Transportation of America (STA), North America’s third-largest student carrier, and operates more than 16,000 vehicles. Its controlling shareholder is Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.

Diesel replacements

Deliveries of the LionC buses — which would replace existing diesel buses in STC fleet — would begin in 2022 and be spread over four years, the companies say.

“Transitioning school bus fleets to electric lowers emissions and that not only benefits the environment, but also the children riding the bus by providing a cleaner, quieter ride,” said Harwood in an email statement to Electric Autonomy Canada.

Lion estimates the 1,000 electric school buses will help to eliminate up to 23,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, as well as significantly reduce noise pollution.

“We applaud STC for its leadership and vision to accelerate the deployment of all-electric school buses in Canada,” said Marc Bedard, CEO and founder of Lion Electric.

“This large-scale deployment would position Canada as a clear leader in the electrification of school transportation…We are proud to be working together with STC, the Caisse de dépôt and the Canadian federal government to provide a cleaner future for our children.”

The deal from A to ZETF

A LionC school bus costs around $300,000, which put the total value of the order at about $300 million.

“Transitioning to an electric school bus fleet requires an initial investment greater than with diesel, and items such as grid and charging infrastructure will need to be considered when evaluating deployment opportunities,” said Harwood.

“However, we are confident that the support of our customers and of our majority shareholder the CDPQ will help to make it a reality.”

Under the ZETF initiative, the Canadian government is investing $2.75 billion over five years to support the electrification of public transit and school transportation across Canada.

While the ZETF funding process is in motion, the STC will work with school boards in Canada to determine their level of interest in electric buses and identify jurisdictions to deploy the new buses in.

For its part, STA has already replaced over 2,000 diesel buses in the U.S. with alternative fuel vehicles and is running a pilot program to study electric buses in at least three states.

“Through this program, the company will track battery life, monitor component life, and collect other key data. With electric fleets planned for urban, suburban and rural areas, this information will give STA actionable intelligence into the performance of electric vehicles in distinct operating environments,” said Harwood.

“Exploring the deployment of electric school buses in Canada is a logical progression of our work to reduce emissions and minimize the environmental impact of our services.”

Full details on the deal can be found here.

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