by Jacob Boon
A staff report heading to next week’s meeting of Regional Council is recommending HRM work with Nova Scotia Power to study putting electric buses on the city’s roads.
If approved, NS Power would put $10,000 towards a $50,000 feasibility study on the idea. The federal government has already promised HRM it will fund half of a $500,000 electric vehicle project.
“While the use of electrical public transit vehicles (EV’s) has become a standard in Europe…their usage is relatively new to the North American market—Canada specifically,” reads the report, prepared by bus maintenance manager Wendy Lines.
Pilot projects to “prove in” the technology are already occurring in Quebec City, Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton.
Any new buses Halifax Transit purchases would likely be a hybrid combination of electric and diesel, or electric and compressed natural gas (CNG). Aside from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the staff report states they’d also be quieter than the current bus fleet and less costly to operate and maintain.
Halifax Transit already has two hybrid diesel-electric buses that were purchased for $2.6 million in 2010 as part of a pilot project by HRM and the province.
The city famously used to have an extensive network of electric-powered streetcars and trolley buses traveling its roads up until the 1960s, when they were replaced with louder, dirtier gas-powered buses.
Back in April, the transit authority also completed a study exploring the design and cost implications of using vehicles powered by compressed natural gas. The results of that project are being used to create a business case for a potential agreement with Heritage Gas on CNG-powered vehicles.
Even if Tuesday’s staff report is approved by council, the feasibility of introducing electric buses will hinge on first completing the long overdue expansion of the Burnside Transit Centre on Isley Avenue.