'It sounds like a great great plan': P.E.I. Green Party supports electric school buses

The government’s plan to buy electric school buses for the province in the coming years was announced by Premier Dennis King Monday night and already has the approval of P.E.I.’s Green Party. 

King commits to electric school buses for P.E.I.

School bus.
The province says electric school buses will also be used for public transportation in rural parts of the province. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The government's plan to switch its entire fleet of about 300 school buses in the province to electric power in the coming years has a preliminary stamp of approval from P.E.I.'s Green Party, the Official Opposition.

Premier Dennis King committed to the move in his state-of-the-province address Monday evening.

In this year's capital budget, government had already committed to buying one electric bus as a pilot project for this fall, along with 30 gas-powered buses.

"The intent is to phase in the electric buses more aggressively in the coming school years in an effort to electrify the fleet, along with the necessary charging infrastructure to support them," a provincial government spokesperson said in an email to CBC News Tuesday.

The province said buses take 22,000 Island students to and from school every day and make up the largest public transit system on the Island.

The province plans to use the electric buses for other purposes, too. 

"We anticipate being able to also use the electric school buses as part of an initiative to offer public transportation in rural P.E.I. when the buses are not being used to transport students," said a spokesperson for the province said in an email to CBC News Tuesday.

"On the surface it sounds like a great great plan," said Steve Howard, Opposition Transportation critic. 

But Howard said he'd like to see more details about how the plan will be implemented. 

1st bus this fall

"It's one thing to make the announcement and have the intent. It's another thing to have the action and the work happen properly as well," Howard said. 

Steve Howard, transportation critic for the Green Party, says he'd like to see more details on how the plan will be implemented. (Al McCormick/CBC)

Howard said he thinks there are some logistical issues to be worked out if the province plans to use the buses for public transit. 

"These are big buses that you're going to have driving around in rural areas. So you know, we need drivers, we need to make sure the roads are suitable for these larger vehicles to get around in rural areas — there's just extra considerations," he said. 

And Howard said there are opportunities for the government to use the buses in other ways. 

"They're big batteries in these things. You never know, they could be electrical assets at the end of their life," he said. "There's all sorts of avenues that can be explored here." 

"I'd be interested to see where government plans to go with it."

Even if government bought 30 new electric buses each year it would take a decade to turn over the whole fleet of about 300.

King said he hopes a lot of the conversions will be completed during his government's current mandate.

Last fall the province bought 42 new school buses at a cost of $4.4 million — the buses were safer and run on cleaner-burning gasoline rather than diesel, producing 7.2 per cent fewer emissions. Each of those 70-passenger buses cost about $100,000.

There is no word yet from the province on how much a new electric fleet may cost, but King said using the buses for school and public transportation will help P.E.I. qualify for federal infrastructure funding for the buses. 

More from CBC P.E.I. 


With files from Kerry Campbell