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Island transportation company considering greener future with electric vehicles

Gerald Giroux, the City of Summerside’s electrical engineer, left, chats with Matthew Cassidy of T3 Transit about the New Flyer electric bus that was recently on the Island and visited Summerside.
Gerald Giroux, the City of Summerside’s electrical engineer, left, chats with Matthew Cassidy of T3 Transit about the New Flyer electric bus that was recently on the Island and visited Summerside. - Millicent McKay

SUMMERSIDE – A local transit business is looking to invest in greener opportunities after recently putting an electric bus to the test on Island roadways.

Matthew Cassidy, vice-president for T3 Transit or Trius Transit, says a fully powered electric bus makes sense for the Island, and more-so Summerside.

“The city has been taking steps towards a greener footprint, so it’s like the stars are aligning when it comes to a bus.”

Manufactured by Canadian company New Flyer, a 39-foot bus, the smallest they manufacture, can cost about $1 million. That’s nearly double the same size bus that runs on diesel.

While the price tag is considerably larger, Cassidy says it’s an investment. 

One of New Flyer’s 39-foot fully electric buses.
One of New Flyer’s 39-foot fully electric buses.

“We took the bus recently out for 12-hours; for a regular shift on University Ave. in Charlottetown. It went from about 96 per cent battery to start to 42 per cent at the end of the shift.

“And we didn’t go easy on it either. This shift was with heavy loads, in high-traffic areas to see what it could stand. The route itself is about 210 kilometres long.”

In total, the bus was on the Island for one week, travelling from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, to P.E.I.

“Going green is the future. It’s the way a lot of things seem to be going. By using an electric bus system, it not only cuts out air pollution but also noise pollution as well, a problem larger cities across the country battle.”

Cassidy added, “It’s funny, we were driving down University, behind this car, and we were inching closer and closer to them and they didn’t even realize we were there, because there is no loud engine like a typical bus.”

He said the next step would be to collect the data the bus tracks while operating, like kilometres travelled, battery usage, and other metrics, and then present it to shareholders in the company to see if it something they’d would be interested in.

Barry Dykeman, the regional salesman in Canada for New Flyer, says an electric bus could be the perfect fit for Summerside.

“With the city having its own utility as well as green energy sources like solar and wind power, the bus could essentially be charged for free. To me that makes it a great fit.”

Dykeman says electric vehicles are the industry’s low hanging fruit.

“Diesel is still the number one on the market, but there is also natural gas and hybrid options out there. But there is a trend that the interest in electric buses and cars is growing faster than expected.”

He says a handful of cities across Canada have outstanding contracts with the company for electric buses.

“It’s like there’s a buzz, an electricity about the opportunities for the future,” he said with a chuckle.

Dykeman says there is a six-year base warranty for the bus’s battery, but there is an offer of 12 years coverage.

“We estimate the bus can last about 12 years. After that time is up though, the battery isn’t garbage, it just won’t serve the purpose for the bus. But it can be used for storage or other utility needs in the community.”

With the federal government’s commitment to incentives for communities that are trying to reduce their carbon footprint with electric vehicles, the bus from new flyer might be the perfect opportunity, said Summerside City Coun. Gordie Whitlock, chairman of the city’s transit committee.

“We’ve had transit services in Summerside since 2012. We’ve been looking for ways to expand the route and we’ve made some tweaks… now with the agreement signed by the federal government, it makes purchasing a second bus more feasible.

“This would be such a nice fit for our green energy file in the city. It’s certainly appropriate and I’d love to see it in our system.”

Whitlock says the committee is working to put together a report for the incoming council that would recommend the change of the route allowing it to cover more areas in a more-timely fashion.

Millicent.mckay@journalpioneer.com

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