P.E.I. puts 12 new electric school buses on the road

P.E.I. began the electrification of its school bus fleet Monday, part of a plan to phase out diesel buses entirely.

Buses now serving Charlottetown-area schools; transition 'going to take a few years'

The new electric school buses are serving Charlottetown-area routes to begin with. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

P.E.I. began the electrification of its school bus fleet Monday, part of a plan to phase out diesel buses entirely.

"It's going to take a few years to get there," Transportation Minister James Aylward said of making the entire 332-bus fleet electric.

"We typically replace about 25 to 30 buses a year, depending on the condition of the fleet and the age of the fleet. There is a substantially higher cost for the electric buses than the fuel buses but at the same time the energy savings, the cost savings from electricity instead of putting fuel into the buses will be considerable."

Charging the buses with electricity rather than filling them with diesel saves about 80 per cent on fuel costs, said Patrick Gervais, vice-president of marketing and communications for Lion Electric, the buses' manufacturer.

In the long run, the province will save money by using the new vehicles, says Transportation Minister James Aylward. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

There are also 60 per cent savings on maintenance, said Gervais, because there are so few moving parts. There are about 20 in the electric engine, as opposed to 2,000 in a diesel engine.

The buses are expected to be in service longer, and Aylward said the province believes savings will make up the extra capital cost, which is $350,000 for the electric bus versus $110,000 for diesel. The greenhouse gas savings are the equivalent of taking five cars off the road.

Gervais said there are other advantages.

"There's no noise pollution. They don't make any noise," he said.

The buses require far less maintenance, says Paul Gervais of Lion Electric. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

"We need to have a little music, which is kind of the Montreal Metro tone, to let kids know there's a bus coming, because they are used to hearing the big noise of the diesel and combustion engines."

And that does more than make the roads quieter. The atmosphere on the bus is calmer, because students and drivers don't have to shout over the sound of the engine.

The buses, which started on routes in the Charlottetown area Monday, were purchased with $2.1 million in assistance from the federal government, leaving $2.7 million in costs for the province.

Charlottetown MP Sean Casey said these buses are just the beginning, and Islanders can expect to see electric public transit buses soon.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Brian Higgins


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