Nova Scotia

Ecology Action Centre 'disheartened' by HRM decision to buy 150 diesel buses

Montreal-based Nova Bus has secured a three-year deal with the Halifax Regional Municipality to provide 150 new diesel transit buses.

Municipality previously said electric buses would be on the road within 2-3 years

The Halifax Regional Municipality will be buying 150 diesel buses like this one over the next three years.

A three-year contract to put 150 diesel transit buses on Halifax-area roads is a far cry from zero-emission electric buses previously endorsed by regional council, says a local environmental group.

While the new diesel buses will meet Environmental Protection Agency standards, the Ecology Action Centre said the news is disappointing. 

"I was disheartened to hear, especially given how recently HRM had committed to buying electric buses," said Ben Hammer, a transportation officer with the centre.

This spring, Halifax regional council unanimously endorsed two rapid transit projects, which included electric buses.

Part of the eight-year plan, estimated to cost $786 million, was to make half of the Halifax Transit fleet electric. The municipality's share would be $210 million.

Diesel bus deal worth $19.5M

At the time, it was stated the electric buses would be on the road in two to three years. But the $19.5-million deal with Montreal-based Nova Bus is to buy diesel buses only.

Nova Bus said the deal has options for two additional years that could boost the number of 12-metre diesel buses up to 190. 

No one from Halifax Transit was available for comment.

Hammer pointed out that Halifax Transit's current fleet includes "about 100 buses that are nearing the end of their service life."

Nova Bus said it makes two styles of electric buses and it hopes to sell some to Halifax in the future.

"Depending on what they are targeting for their future, we'd definitely like to continue working with them on electro-mobility," said Matt Nadon, regional sales manager for Nova Bus.

School bus company using propane-fuelled buses

The purchase of the diesel buses is in stark contrast to what one school bus company is doing this year for the Halifax Regional Centre for Education.

Southland Transportation has a fleet of 144 buses that are all fuelled by propane.

A school bus is fuelled up with propane at the Southland Transportation yard in the Burnside Industrial Park.

"The biggest benefit is lower emissions," said Coady MacNeil, operations manager at Southland Transportation.

"The propane buses emit about 44 per cent less than a conventional gas or diesel bus."

Southland's website says it's been using propane as an alternative to diesel since 2007, with more than 745 propane-fuelled buses in its Canada-wide fleet as of 2019.

"Not only is this initiative operationally viable, but it is a proven solution to reduce toxic emissions," the website says.




Paul Palmeter is an award-winning video journalist born and raised in the Annapolis Valley. He has covered news and sports stories across Nova Scotia for 30 years.