P.E.I.'s T3 Transit tries out electric bus
'I used to talk litres of diesel — now it's kilowatt hours'
T3 Transit passengers in Charlottetown travelled aboard a new set of electric-powered wheels Wednesday as the company runs a week-long demonstration of an emissions-free electric bus.
The bus, made by North American manufacturer New Flyer, took over T3 Routes 1 and 2, giving passengers and bus drivers a chance to get a feel for the entirely electric-powered vehicle.
'Do you go electric?'
"We are looking at modernizing our fleet," said owner of T3 Transit Mike Cassidy.
"The decision is, do you go diesel or do you go electric?"
Cassidy said he's looked to several other municipalities across Canada that are exploring alternative energy options for their transit systems and said electric is front and centre in communities like Toronto and Vancouver.
"I just believe that Charlottetown, Cornwall, Stratford, should take a hard look at another option from an environment perspective and a sense of responsibility as to what we're doing as we provide public transportation in our municipalities," Cassidy said.
A quiet ride
Cassidy said the 35-foot bus is rated to go 250 to 300 kilometres on a full charge, which is well within the range to cover each route T3 buses travel in a day.
Shawn McNeill has been driving buses for T3 since 2012 and said transitioning to an electric vehicle was smooth.
"It's the nicest vehicle I ever drove to be honest with you," McNeill said. "Everybody wants to see zero-emissions with climate change and it's a very positive thing."
Some passengers were impressed to see more environmentally-friendly transit options being considered on the Island, they said.
Robert Gillis, who uses public transit every day, was also impressed by how comfortable his morning trip was.
"It was very quiet, you could even hear a pin drop on it," Gillis said. "Hopefully we can get more downtown."
T3 looking at options
Throughout the week, New Flyer will be recording data as the bus travels T3 routes and giving that data to T3.
"We want to make sure we do our research, we do the comparison of operations, prices, what it does for ridership, what does it mean for the environment in our communities," Cassidy said.
Once T3 analyzes the data, Cassidy said it will make recommendations to the municipalities and the provincial and federal governments and explore funding options to add electric busses to its fleet.
Cassidy said the capital costs of adding electric buses to T3's fleet would be high.
'Electric bus is a reality'
The average cost of a New Flyer electric bus is about $1 million, compared to about $550,000 for a diesel bus, Cassidy said.
He added that the data collected during the demonstration will allow the company to determine how that initial cost could be offset over time by fuel savings, reduced maintenance costs and increased ridership.
He said he does not anticipate introducing a fare increase to support the purchase of electric buses.
"The electric bus two or three years ago could have been a dream," Cassidy said. "Today the electric bus is a reality."
"I used to talk litres of diesel. Now it's kilowatt hours."