Electric buses are seen as a way to improve service and cut emissions Photo: CC, SounderBruce via Flickr.
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Campaign claims electric buses reduce emissions, cost

A coalition of activists launched a campaign on March 13 for the city to adopt electric buses and municipal vehicles.

The group, led by the Electric Vehicle Council of Ottawa (EVCO) is lobbying City councillors and building public support for a pilot project that would see OC Transpo test a variety of electric buses.

“What we are aiming to do, long term, is replace every bus in the city with an electric vehicle,” said Austin De Jonge, the campus coordinator for EVCO at the University of Ottawa.

“Students are the most active, the most conscious, they are always looking for new environmental campaigns — we feel like they will be the most eager to get involved. So we are hoping the student body will pay a role in this initiative.”

The group says that electric buses will reduce fuel and maintenance costs for the city while providing a quieter and smoother ride for passengers.

“Electric buses are a lot less complicated, there are less moving parts when compared to a hybrid or an internal combustion engine,” explained de Jonge.

He also touted the buses’ environmental benefits, stating that the silent running of electric vehicles will allow them to run in noise-restricted neighbourhoods and late at night.

“Buses are responsible for 45 per cent of the city’s (government) emissions. They run the most often, they are huge vehicles, and some old ones are not very efficient,” de Jonge continued.

Numerous cities in Canada including Toronto, Edmonton, and Montreal have electric vehicles in various stages of trials. However, municipalities have been cautious about fully adopting the new technology, due in part to several high-profile failures in early designs.

Electric buses first saw regular use in Canada through Quebec City’s Ecolobus program in 2006. However, the experimental vehicles never made it out of the initial pilot project due to poor winter performance, maintenance issues, and multiple battery fires.

Raymond Leury, the president of EVCO, claimed that Ottawa is behind the curve on this initiative, citing Toronto’s plan to purchase 900 electric buses before 2028. A similar effort in Montreal and Gatineau would see all new buses be pure electric after 2023, gradually phasing out their diesel vehicles.

“We are not talking about the bleeding edge anymore. We are talking about technology that is proven in North America, that is being used now, ” Leury said.

“Internationally, China has over 40,000 electric buses on the road, far more than anywhere else in the world. Some of their northern cities have very similar climates to Canada, and they have no serious issues.”

EVCO and Ecology Ottawa are currently collecting petition signatures in support of electric bus adoption. More information can be found on their website.