Blue Nova Bus electric bus on road
The City of Regina is set to begin electrifying its transit fleet after signing a five-year contract with Nova Bus to provide up to 53 battery-electric buses to Regina Transit. Photo: Nova Bus

Regina’s deal, as well as a smaller order from the transit authority for Waterloo, Ont., are the latest in a string of Nova Bus sales to Canadian cities

The City of Regina is moving to electrify its transit fleet after signing a five-year contract with Nova Bus to acquire up to 53 battery-electric buses for Regina Transit.

Nova Bus is a subsidiary of the Volvo Group based in Quebec. It received an order for seven of its LFSe+ 40-foot long-range buses to deliver to Regina in 2025.

“These will be the first battery-electric buses in Regina Transit’s fleet,” said Brad Bells, director of Transit and Fleet with the City of Regina, in a press statement. “The addition of these electric buses will support the City of Regina’s goal of becoming a 100 per cent renewable city by 2050.”

The cost for the first seven buses ordered this year is $10.8 million. The city is planning to purchase 13 more buses next year for $22.4 million. Additionally, $21.2 million will be needed for facility upgrades and infrastructure to support the electric buses.

“The overall cost in 2024 and 2025 is $53.7 million. However, the federal government is providing Regina Transit with $26.85M (50 per cent of our overall cost) under the Zero Emission Transit Fund (ZETF), which brings our cost down to $26.85 million for both years,” says a spokesperson for the City of Regina in an email to Electric Autonomy.

“The remaining 33 electric buses will be purchased after 2025 based on the City’s annual budget and fleet requirements.”

Partnership with Nova Bus

Regina is a longstanding partner of Nova Bus, initially incorporating the manufacturer’s hybrid buses into the city’s fleet in 2023.

According to Alexandrine Gauvin, advisor for public affairs and external communications at Nova Bus, in an interview with Electric Autonomy, hybrids were “a good step towards full electrification” for Regina. This is because they reduce emissions, help with acclimating to electric technology and are important for workforce training.

“What added value Nova Bus brings is, with the electric buses, it’s an evolution of the bus that already existed from diesel to hybrid to electric,” says Gauvin. “For the most part, the transit authority will know the bus and will be used to it.”

In Regina’s Energy and Sustainability Framework the city pledges to only purchase battery-electric buses from 2024 onwards.

The goal is to completely replace its current fleet of 123 buses with zero-emission alternatives by 2040.

Waterloo pilot project

Regina is not the first transit authority to adopt Nova Bus’ LFSe+ buses. The vehicles are already in operation in a number of Canadian cities including Guelph, Vancouver, Halifax, Quebec City and Montreal.

And, in January, Grand River Transit (GRT) became the latest transit authority to receive a Nova Bus LFSe+.

The GRT serves the Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo region in Ontario. It discontinued diesel-only bus purchases in 2020, switching to hybrid and electric options.

GRT’s first Nova bus will go into service next month as part of a zero-emission bus pilot. Ten more electric buses will follow later this year.

As part of the pilot project, GRT will assess how the electric buses handle different routes and driving conditions. The transit authority will also gather feedback from customers. The information will be used to build a roadmap for service improvements and expansion over the next five years.

“This bus is a symbol of our commitment to the environment and sustainable transportation,” said Karen Redman, regional chair of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, in a press statement.

“This is an exciting step forward in our plans to transition to a more resilient, low-carbon community. As we move toward our goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the region by 80 per cent by 2050, Grand River Transit plays a crucial role.”

The combined cost of the buses and chargers for the project is $15.1 million. The federal government, the Ontario government and the Region of Waterloo are each contributing $6.05 million, $5.04 million and $4.04 million, respectively.

Canadian market focus

Multiple transit authorities across Canada are making commitments to adopting electric buses. Gauvin says there is a clear upward trend in the market.

“We’re really at a tipping point in the transition and as a manufacturer, we’re seeing it. The majority of our orders already this year and for next year are all-electric,” says Gauvin.

In June 2023, Nova Bus ended bus production in the U.S. in order to redirect its focus on building its leadership position in Canada and supporting its clients.

“We are very conscious that we have a good product, that is very much in demand and the momentum is just expanding rapidly,” says Gauvin. “It’s very important for us to make sure that we accompany our clients and future clients in that transition and make sure that we are the leader, but also the experts. Our main focus is making sure that we support the transition to all-electric buses.”

Nova Bus manufactures its buses in two Quebec facilities now. The metal structure is built in its Saint-François-du-Lac plant, while the final assembly takes place at its Saint-Eustache facility.