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OC Transpo - Electric Buses


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Today at the Transit Commission meeting, OC Transpo expressed their interest in acquiring two electric buses and charging infrastructure to get this kind of technology off the ground in the city of Ottawa. No doubt the future is electric but with the current bus system, there are many cross city routes and long distance routes, something that would present some challenges for electric battery powered buses. The arrival of the Confederation Line and in another 5 years the Phase 2 LRT expansions, distances that buses will have to travel will be greatly shortened, thus making electric buses a reality and viable.

Some of the debates surrounded the choice of either sole-sourcing the buses from NovaBus, the current OC Transpo diesel bus supplier, or putting it out to tender. In the end it was decided to tender the purchase to maximize the use of the $6 million they want to allocate to this project.

The commission was shown the following presentation today at the meeting. Lots of interesting details, including 3 proposed bus routes to initially run electric buses on.

Electric Bus_June 19, 2019 - TC.pdf

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Hurdman is a good starting point, but so is most of the "destination" terminus, either downtown or outside the core. Depending how the transit network is reorganized past Stage 2, the entire Hurd

Today at the Transit Commission meeting, OC Transpo expressed their interest in acquiring two electric buses and charging infrastructure to get this kind of technology off the ground in the city of Ot

En-route charging and overhead pantograph charging like Nova Bus uses are not only expensive but are unnecessary and a waste of limited financial resources as each pantograph charger costs as much (if

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Putting a charging station at Hurdman would unlock a lot of routes for electrification. For example, the routes 44, 45, 46, 48, 49, and 291 are all short enough that an electric bus could run round trips. Those are only the routes I could see on the map in the slides, and I live in the area so I'm biased, but there are plenty of other routes out of just Hurdman that could be served.

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3 hours ago, occheetos said:

Putting a charging station at Hurdman would unlock a lot of routes for electrification. For example, the routes 44, 45, 46, 48, 49, and 291 are all short enough that an electric bus could run round trips. Those are only the routes I could see on the map in the slides, and I live in the area so I'm biased, but there are plenty of other routes out of just Hurdman that could be served.

Hurdman is a good starting point, but so is most of the "destination" terminus, either downtown or outside the core.

Depending how the transit network is reorganized past Stage 2, the entire Hurdman - South Keys portion could be served by electric buses, which would both reduce noise, but increase efficiency on this connection. Since this entire segment doesn't have the traffic to support a light-rail conversion in the medium-term, it would probably be a viable space to install electric buses.

As for NovaBus vs other suppliers, I'll again come to the defence of Nova: they have a product that is being used in Montreal, which is now more of a known variable. Although it is not (yet?) offered in an articulated version, it is a common platform to the current LFS, and from an operational standpoint reduces the spread of suppliers. With destination fast-chargers like those in Montreal (attached below), charging times are considerably reduced and operability becomes almost "standard": destination stops shared between vehicles, each going their own route. Can the city get "more" for 6 millions? Probably not unless they go Chinese. NovaBus is built on Volvo's heavy vehicle expertise, both for trucks and buses around the world. The LFSe is a first gen product, using third gen technology.

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En-route charging and overhead pantograph charging like Nova Bus uses are not only expensive but are unnecessary and a waste of limited financial resources as each pantograph charger costs as much (if not more) than a bus. The Nova buses used by Montreal and recommended at the aforementioned city meeting are perhaps the least representative, least-capable battery electric buses on the market. It's almost as if the project as proposed was intended to fail.

It's telling that the TTC and Montreal did not buy Nova electric buses for their most recent purchases. TTC bought BYD (factory is currently being built in Newmarket) and Proterra (built in California) while Montreal eschewed Nova due to their experience with the buses mentioned in the previous post - and despite them being a hometown Montreal company - and instead went with competitor New Flyer (built in Winnipeg) for their new fleet of battery-electric buses. Edmonton has also chosen Proterra for its fleet after having tested several buses in 2015 under harsh winter conditions. Those competing buses are currently on the market and are already in use in all over North America in ever-increasing numbers. They are able to replace diesel buses one for one by using far less expensive depot charging and do not require expensive en-route pantograph charging infrastructure. Of the major Canadian cities Ottawa is the laggard in the electric bus space. Other cities have tested and put them into service and we still have people making (false) claims about how they might not have enough range or might not hold up in our winters despite similarly cold Canadian cities having no issues with either perceived 'issue'.

Remember, the average trip length for an OC Transpo bus during a day is around 250km with many buses doing less than that. Most electric buses (other than Nova) are more than capable running those distances with a wide margin of range to spare. That average will also come down once LRT is up and running as the train will take over the cross-town spine duties and break up routes currently being preformed by buses. With 2/3rds of OC Transpo's fleet inactive during off-peak times there is plenty of potential time to charge the fleet. OC Transpo's scheduling software even has the ability to take such needs into account already.

Battery-electric is the future and I'm happy the Transit Commission put the purchase up to tender rather than sole-source it to an inferior product that is doomed to fail. The city should buy any one of the offerings from Nova's competitors and start seeing the fuel and maintenance savings as soon as possible. (Not to mention the environmental benefits!) All future fleet replacements should also be electric as far as I'm concerned. Diesel is done.

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On 6/28/2019 at 10:32 AM, Mike said:

It's telling that the TTC and Montreal did not buy Nova electric buses for their most recent purchases.

Montreal purchased additional Nova units late last year to continue their pilot. All buses on the 36 are now electric IIRC.

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On ‎7‎/‎23‎/‎2019 at 9:41 AM, occheetos said:

Montreal purchased additional Nova units late last year to continue their pilot. All buses on the 36 are now electric IIRC.

I guess that's why they awarded New Flyer (Nova's main Canadian competitor) "Canada's largest-ever battery electric bus contract" then?

https://www.newflyer.com/2018/08/montreal-and-laval-award-canadas-largest-ever-battery-electric-bus-contract-to-new-flyer/

If the Nova's were any good they would have continued with them and not switched to a competitor for follow-on contracts. The new batch of Nova's they bought were to fill in the gaps and complete the electrification of the limited routes the Novas are already being used on. For actual fleet replacement needs they went with New Flyers battery-electric Xcelsior CHARGE. Per the press release, they're getting one pilot bus from New Flyer to make sure the depot charging stuff gets all sorted out before the rest of the fleet of production buses follow starting nine months later. If STM were actually happy with the Nova's one would have expected them to leverage the existing infrastructure from the Nova trial program and expand on it.

Instead they're going with a competitor and only taking a few months to get the depot charging set up before they deploy a fleet of them That speaks volumes about the Nova buses.

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3 minutes ago, Mike said:

I guess that's why they awarded New Flyer (Nova's main Canadian competitor) "Canada's largest-ever battery electric bus contract" then?

https://www.newflyer.com/2018/08/montreal-and-laval-award-canadas-largest-ever-battery-electric-bus-contract-to-new-flyer/

If the Nova's were any good they would have continued with them and not switched to a competitor for follow-on contracts. The new batch of Nova's they bought were to fill in the gaps and complete the electrification of the limited routes the Novas are already being used on. For actual fleet replacement needs they went with New Flyers battery-electric Xcelsior CHARGE. Per the press release, they're getting one pilot bus from New Flyer to make sure the depot charging stuff gets all sorted out before the rest of the fleet of production buses follow starting nine months later. If STM were actually happy with the Nova's one would have expected them to leverage the existing infrastructure from the Nova trial program and expand on it.

Instead they're going with a competitor and only taking a few months to get the depot charging set up before they deploy a fleet of them That speaks volumes about the Nova buses.

I am actually conflicted about what it "really" means for the STM / STL fleet. From a practical standpoint, the Nova charge stations are not suitable for all operations, so I can totally see the need for any transit organization to diversify their fleet of vehicles to fit their different needs.

I'd be curious to see the actual reports from the STM on why they went for the NFI, and if Nova was actually part of this specific RFP / RFQ, as there might have been a need or desire for varied fleet providers. None the less, it is a step in the right direction for Montreal, and I gotta applaud it no matter the provider.

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Nice find. Hoping they do go ahead with this. STM in Montreal have and I'd love to see the buses tried here. With a move to the LRT, and buses eventually serving the nearest station only, not cross town, electric buses and hybrids for that matter can have a real chance at succeeding in Ottawa, even more so than before.

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With Ottawa planning to buy four electric buses this year, I am interested in knowing if they will be assigned a 2000 series fleet numbering pattern. As I was able to determine, the trolley buses used by the Ottawa Transportation Commission from 1951 to 1959 were numbered 2001-2010.

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