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New Electric School Bus Launched at Phase Change For Electric Transit

autoTRADER.ca logo autoTRADER.ca 2017-11-09 Evan Williams
a close up of a van: Thomas Jouley.jpg© http://www.autotrader.ca/ Thomas Jouley.jpg

Daimler-owned Thomas Built Buses has just launched the company's first electric bus. The new bus comes as school districts and transit commissions across the country are plugging in to the idea of electric public transport.

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The formal name of the bus is the Saf-T-Liner C2 electric bus, but Thomas is calling it Jouley. Named for the joule unit of energy. The zero-emission bus offers what Thomas calls "full OEM vehicle performance."

That means a top speed of 105 km/h, with no shifting thanks to the direct drive motor. That 0-100 km/h might put you in detention, though, as it takes 45 seconds.

Thomas says that the reduced maintenance costs and lower fuel costs make cost of ownership comparable to a conventional bus. The bus has a 160 km range, but larger battery packs and a longer range are optional. The standard bus has a 100 kWh back, with up to 160 kWh available. The standard battery can charge in eight hours using a standard charger. Production will start in 2019.

Electric transit, via school bus or by city bus, is starting to gain a foothold in Canada.

Parkland County, just west of Edmonton, AB, was one of the first school districts in the country to move to an electric bus. Their service started this year. It joins Montreal, whose largest school board began plans to swap out their entire fleet over a decade starting last year. The company operating that fleet said electric buses were 80 percent cheaper to run than conventional diesel vehicles.

The Province of New Brunswick also purchased two electric school buses that are currently operating in the Moncton area. That pilot program is ongoing. It's part of NB DOT's commitment to adding more electric vehicles to the province's fleet.

All three of those districts use a bus from Canadian manufacturer Lion. The eLion offers a similar 90 to 150 km range per charge. It does still use a diesel-powered auxiliary heater to keep kids warm in a Canadian winter, so is not technically a zero emissions vehicle.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation announced last August that as part of the province's Climate Change Action Plan, that they would be starting an electric bus pilot program. That program is scheduled to start December 1st, but successful applicants haven't yet been notified.

Toronto's Transit Commission is also making a stop for electricity. The TTC is planning a $50 million purchase of electric transit buses and wants to add 30 to the fleet by 2019. It's part of a larger plan to green the entire fleet by 2040. The TTC is the third largest transit operator in North America and has 2,031 buses in their current fleet.

Bem Case, the head of vehicle programs for the TTC said that "it’s the first step in the adoption of this technology... We’re buying these buses, so we’re committed to making them work."

The TTC is also looking at alternative fuels, like hydrogen fuel cells, but their report suggests the technology is not yet ready for transit. The TTC's current fleet is nearly one-third diesel-electric hybrids.

Edmonton announced plans last fall to stop buying diesel buses and buying only electric buses starting in three years. The city is looking at vehicles with a 500 km range.

Vancouver signed a deal last month that committed to purchasing only electric transit buses by 2025. The city approved $7 million earlier this year to purchase four battery-powered buses and two charging systems for the start of a two-year pilot project. The city already operates electric buses, but those use overhead wires for power.

There are currently only 10 electric transit buses in service in Canada. Montreal, Winnipeg, and St. Albert, AB, are all conducting trials.

For vehicles that only run short distances twice a day, electrification seems a good fit for school buses. Plug it in after the morning run, and again after it's done for the night. For transit buses, bigger batteries are needed, up to 600 kWh in current options. That allows for a range of over 300 km on a charge. Rapid rechargers located at terminals can give an extra hour of operation in just six minutes.

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