After creating a sensation on social media when it arrived at Guelph Transit HQ on Friday, the City of Guelph’s first electric bus pulled in front of City Hall so that members of city council and members of City senior staff could take a closer look. The new bus received rave reviews for its spaciousness and the relative silence inside the vehicle, but it’s still going to be a while before transit users will be able to check that out for themselves.
As discussed at January’s Transit Advisory Committee meeting, the first of four electric buses arrived in Guelph at the end of last week and the other three are expected to arrive by the end of February. Transit staff were hoping to keep the arrival under wraps for some kind of public unveiling, but the post on the City’s social media feed generated a lot of early buzz over the weekend, and it’s a buzz even the guy selling the bus can’t deny.
“Guelph is my first delivery of a long range electric bus, and I’ve been very much looking forward to this day,” said Michael Coote, the regional sales manager of NovaBus.
Guelph is the first city in Ontario to receive one of the new LFSe model electric buses, and it’s only the second in all of Canada to receive one. Montreal, Your Region, Brampton, Vancouver, and Grand River Transit up the road have all put in orders for the LFSe, and it’s easy to why given the specs.
“The primary spec when you’re talking electric buses is available energy and this particular bus has 564 kilowatt hours available,” Coote explained, which, in terms of distance, means that these buses can run for 300 kilometres before they need to recharge. “That’s a lot of power available, and that typically should give us sufficient range to do an operating cycle for the day, which is about eight to nine hours.”
Coote said it takes about three hours to charge the bus from a depleted battery to having a full charge, which means that a bus could charge overnight, run an entire shift from 6 am to 3 pm, and then go back to the bus bay to recharge and be back on the road for an evening or late evening partial shift if the service needs an extra bus.
NovaBus has about 60 per cent of the municipal bus market in Canada, so it’s possible that this EV bus could become a staple in may transit fleets across the county, including the Toronto Transit Commission who is currently in the process of sourcing their own purchase agreement for electric buses.
“There’s a push to electrification, and various agencies are either mandating or are setting climate goals – whether it be 2030, 2035, 204o – for zero emission transit, so if the funding is there, there’s no question that the agencies are jumping in with both feet,” Coote said. “It’s environmentally driven, and we’re very excited to be part of it.”
After parking it in front of city hall, the new EV bus went for a test spin around the block, down Carden Street, through Guelph Central Station and then around Wellington to Gordon and back to Carden Street. Behind the wheel was Michael Van Kooy, Facility and Electrification Supervisor for Guelph Transit.
“It handles the exact same as other buses, but it’s smoother, quieter, and just feels tighter,” Van Kooy said after the ride. “The biggest learning curve, I think, is when somebody drives this, it’s going to be the only thing they want to drive. It’s easier to drive because you use the brake a whole lot less, and personally, I love it. I love driving it.”
Many agreed that Transit users are going love riding it too, but there are still some hurdles that this and the other three EV Buses have to proverbially jump over before they will ferry passengers around Guelph. “We’re going to go out, we’re going to test it on all the different routes, different conditions, different drivers, and different times a day in regards to how busy the routes are,” Von Kooy said. “I would expect it’ll probably be 16 weeks before it’s out on the road.”