New Calstart data charts increasing zero-emission bus adoption in Canada, with Ontario in the lead
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Jan 6, 2022
Emma Jarratt

With nearly 70 per cent of Canada’s zero-emission transit buses rolling on Ontario streets, the province has emerged as an unlikely early adopter of both battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell heavy-duty vehicles

Toronto Transit Commission operates North America’s largest electric bus fleet.

With nearly 70 per cent of Canada’s zero-emission buses rolling on Ontario streets, the province has emerged as a dominant early adopter of both battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell transit vehicles

A new Calstart report has, for the second time since 2018, assessed the rate of zero-emission transit bus (ZEBs) adoption in Canada. Findings from the California-based non-profit, whose mission is to accelerate development and adoption of clean transportation, show that transit fleets are transitioning at a rapid pace and that Ontario has emerged the clear leader among provinces.

As of September 2021, Canada had 606 full- and small-sized transit ZEBs registered, according to the report. Of those, 307 arrived within the 2021 calendar year, a 50 per cent increase over 2020. Ontario’s share of the fleet totals 413 of battery electric buses and all 10 of Canada’s hydrogen fuel cell buses. Calstart’s data does not include school bus fleets.

“Ontario is an early adopter, and its transit agencies are primed to scale operations with the additional investment pledged by the government,” said Jared Schnader, director of Bus Programs at Calstart in a press release. “With the stated goal of 5,000 ZEBs by 2025 nationally, we expect to see significant growth across the provinces.”

In 2021, the federal government announced $2.75 billion in funding to help meet its promise of putting 5,000 zero-emission buses on the road by the end of 2025: the Zero Emission Transit Fund. The money will go toward both zero-emission transit and school buses as well as charging infrastructure and site upgrades.

Additionally, the Canadian Infrastructure Bank last year pledged to spend $1.5 billion to deploy 4,000 zero-emission buses and related infrastructure within three years. It also has a 10-year target to investment $5 billion in public transit.

ZEBs coast-to-coast

Calstart’s data shows seven out of 10 Canadian provinces with zero emission buses in operation. Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia led in adoption with 423 (including the 10 fuel cell buses), 61 and 60 vehicles, respectively. Conversely, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island had no ZEB transit buses in operation.

“These ZEB adoption numbers countrywide are expected to grow at an increasing rate as Canada moves to achieve its net-zero emissions goal by 2050,” reads the report. “The Canadian government has pledged to put 5,000 ZEBs, both transit and school buses, on the road by 2025. This commitment also pledges to build 5,000 electrical charging stations along the Trans-Canada Highway, as well as other roads across the country.”

The impetus in Canadian bus fleet transitions is transit authorities. Municipal transit authorities in Montreal and Vancouver have pledged to be entirely zero-emission by 2040. Likewise, the Toronto Transit Commission, which currently operates the largest battery electric bus fleet in North America, is also aiming to be fully transitioned to zero-emission by 2040. The city of Ottawa wants to achieve the same goal even earlier, in 2036.

The 10 hydrogen fuel cell buses are currently part of a pilot program in Mississauga under the jurisdiction of transit authority MiWay.

Calstart projects growth in the zero-emission bus sector will increase “at a rapid pace…as Canada moves to achieve its net-zero emissions goal by 2050,” reads the report.

The full Calstart report can be viewed here.

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