Calgary Transit buys electric shuttle buses for long-awaited pilot

Calgary Transit’s electric buses aren’t in service yet, but readying for their first route.

Battery-powered community shuttles to start service in 2022

Calgary Transit is getting ready to test battery-powered shuttle buses in winter weather. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Calgary Transit will use electric vehicles for some community routes starting next year.

Transit purchased 14 Vicinity Lightning EV shuttle buses from Vicinity Motor Corp. for delivery and operation in 2022. 

The idea is to test how these smaller vehicles work for Calgary Transit's community routes — especially over the winter, when there's snow on the ground and buses are running heaters to keep passengers warm. 

Calgary Transit has been eyeing battery-powered buses since 2018.

Transit's first bus order totalled $6 million for 14 vehicles, and it can expand the fleet for a fixed price, according to a five-year deal with Vicinity Motor Corp. 

The city also secured $7 million in funding for the pilot project from Emission Reduction Alberta (ERA).

Sleek shuttles

The buses won't look like your typical community shuttle, said Karen Alm, acting transit fleet manager.

Shuttle are about half the size of a regular bus, which is 40 feet (12.2 metres) in length.

"They're the same size [as the regular shuttle] but they'll look more like a 40-foot bus in shape," Alm said. 

Calgary chose to procure shuttle vehicles because other jurisdictions in Canada, including Toronto, have tested regular electric buses. Alm said Calgary's shuttle routes are some of the system's longest, which will really put the electric vehicles' battery life to the test. 

"Other transit agencies are doing trials with 40-foot buses," Alm said. "We wanted to look at a different vehicle that no one else was trialling … to be sure that we could be successful with all types of fleet." 

Charging stations next

Next on the agenda before the buses arrive is to decide what routes these buses will test, and to secure and install charging stations at bus barns.

"We are focused on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions," Alm said. "So we're looking at new technology that will help us do that. We just want to be certain that any technology that we choose works with the service that we provide."

Once in operation, the buses will be tried out and monitored for about a year, before Calgary Transit decides on next steps. 

"This first order marks the beginning of a valuable partnership with Calgary Transit as they diversify their fleet and mitigate exposure to energy and carbon costs," said William Trainer, founder and CEO of Vicinity Motor Corp., in a news release. 


Helen Pike


Helen Pike is CBC Calgary's mountain bureau reporter, based in Canmore. Her reporting focus is on stories about life, wildlife and climate in the Rockies. She joined CBC Calgary as a multimedia reporter in 2018 after spending four years working as a print journalist with a focus on municipal issues. You can find her on Twitter @helenipike.