Saskatoon Transit lands e-bus transition funding, joins growing list of Canadian cities switching to electric fleets
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Apr 27, 2023
Mehanaz Yakub

Saskatoon Transit is receiving $420,000 to create a multi-phase strategy to help it to transition to a fully electric bus fleet and meet the city’s emissions reduction targets

Saskatoon Transit is moving to electrifying its bus fleet with a joint investment of $420,000 from the federal and municipal governments. Photo: City of Saskatoon

Saskatoon Transit is receiving $420,000 to create a multi-phase strategy to help it to transition to a fully electric bus fleet and meet the city’s emissions reduction targets

Saskatoon Transit is moving to electrify its bus fleet with a joint $420,000 investment from the federal and municipal governments.

The money will be used to create a five-phase strategy under guidance from the Canadian Urban Transit Research & Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC) as the city awaits its first two electric buses set to arrive in 2024.

“This funding will allow Saskatoon Transit to plan for the successful electrification of their bus fleet, which will provide quieter, cleaner transit options to the city’s residents,” says Dominic LeBlanc, federal minister of intergovernmental affairs, infrastructure and communities in a press statement.

The strategy will assess the costs, risks and advantages of transitioning the city’s 140 buses fully to a low-carbon fleet. It will also identify the infrastructure and internal resources needed to make the switch to electric.

Infrastructure Canada is providing $336,000 through the Zero Emission Transit Fund (ZETF) for the Saskatoon planning project.

The total budget of ZETF is $2.75 billion until 2025. The federal government is allocating $10 million from the fund to projects that will help transit operators across Canada complete planning work and increase their zero-emission bus readiness. The remaining funding goes to “capital projects” for purchasing buses and charging infrastructure.

The city of Saskatoon is contributing $84,000 to the project.

“The electrification of our transportation sector is one of the most impactful measures we can take to reduce our emissions and build a clean economy,” says LeBlanc.

CUTRIC will help Saskatoon Transit create the five-phase strategy. It will also provide the research tools, tests and planning for how e-buses will operate.

Meeting environmental goals

The decision to transition to an electric fleet aligns Saskatoon Transit with the city’s Low Emissions Community Plan. The plan aims to reduce city emissions by 40 per cent below 2014 levels by 2023 and 80 per cent below by 2050.

The city completed a year-long pilot project between Oct. 2020 and Sept. 2021 to explore how effectively an e-bus can operate in cold weather in Saskatoon.

A report illustrates a key finding of the pilot: the electric bus could have 47 per cent lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to diesel. “Further GHG emission reductions can be achieved by purchasing electricity from cleaner sources,” says the report.

Mayor Charlie Clark praised the pilot project, saying it “showed just some of the possible benefits that can be realized.”

“This important funding [for the planning project] will allow Saskatoon to take crucial steps towards modernizing and electrifying our bus fleet,” he added.

After the pilot, in December 2021, the Saskatoon city council approved the purchase of two battery electric buses. Earlier this week, Saskatoon Transit secured a contract for two Nova Bus LFSe+ electric buses, with ranges of more than 300 kilometres.

“These will be the first two permanent battery-electric buses in Saskatoon Transit’s fleet and the first in Saskatchewan. Delivery of the buses is expected in 2024,” says a spokesperson for the city of Saskatoon in an email to Electric Autonomy.

CUTRIC boosts zero-emission buses

In teaming up with CUTRIC, Saskatoon joins several other Canadian cities, including St. John’s and Moncton, N.B., working with the non-profit consortium to develop similar multi-phase strategies to help transition their fleets to zero-emission.

“We know that sustainability is a continuous journey. We are committed to taking significant strides toward a net zero future,” says Josipa Petrunic, president and CEO of CUTRIC.

Earlier this year, CUTRIC launched the Canadian Urban Transit Zero Emissions Bus (CUTZEB) joint procurement initiative. It’s a program that assists transit agencies in purchasing e-buses once they have completed feasibility analysis and procurement planning.

Many cities opting for e-buses

Saskatoon joins several other Canadian cities receiving financial aid from the federal government to purchase e-buses or conduct pilots.

This week, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) announced $349 million in federal funding from the ZETF capital stream to purchase 340 zero-emission transit buses and 248 chargers. The funding includes site upgrades, equipment procurement and charger installations at eight TTC bus garages. The City of Toronto is contributing $351 million to the project.

Meanwhile, in January, Ottawa secured $350 million for the procurement of 350 electric OC Transpo buses by 2027.

The City of Belleville is also receiving $150,000 from ZEFT’s planning stream to conduct a feasibility study on battery electric buses and develop a fleet transition plan.

Durham Region Transit (DRT) is getting a combined investment of up to C$74.1 million from Infrastructure Canada and the Canada Infrastructure Bank for the purchase of 104 electric buses. The first six e-buses, supplied by Nova Bus, are part of a DRT pilot project. The buses will be put in service by fall 2024.

The City of Regina also hopes to tap federal funds for the purchase of its first e-buses. Last year, city council approved the Regina Transit Master Plan. The plan lays out that Regina Transit will only buy battery-powered buses as of 2024.

A City of Regina spokesperson tells Electric Autonomy, “This will be going to council in a couple of weeks and we’ll have details at that time.”

Elsewhere, the federal government, through its Rural Transit Solutions Fund, is partnering with the Nova Scotia government to help purchase an electric transit bus and supporting charging infrastructure. This bus will serve the town and county of Antigonish, including Paq’tnkek First Nation.

And, in British Columbia, BC Transit is putting into service its first 10 electric transit buses in Victoria this summer.

The provincial and the Canadian governments are each contributing 40 per cent of the total cost of the buses. The funds from the federal government are going to be provided through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.

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