Posted: 01/2/2019

Winnipeg is looking at taking the next step toward introducing permanent battery-electric buses to its transit fleet.

The city's administration is recommending council approve the creation of a study, which would report back in four months, to provide cost estimates on not just purchasing 12 to 20 battery-electric buses, but also include how and where they would be charged, and maintenance costs.

As well, the report would include how to get possible funding from the provincial and federal governments.

The request will be made at next week's meeting of the civic committee on infrastructure renewal and public works.

The director of Winnipeg Transit said Wednesday it currently costs about $1.2 million to buy a 12-metre, battery-electric bus, compared to $600,000 for a same-sized diesel bus.

But there is less maintenance for electric buses," Greg Ewankiw said. "The vision is to have a fully electrified fleet.

The city ran a pilot project from 2014 to 2017 with four electric buses.

Ewankiw said the information Winnipeg Transit received from the trial was invaluable, but the four buses were powered by what is now outdated technology and would have to be retrofitted to allow them back on the road.

He said should the city eventually purchase 12 to 20 buses, and gets a better idea of their costs and benefits, Winnipeg could then move towards buying more.

Such a change from diesel won't happen overnight, but rather over several years, Ewankiw said.

"Right now, we replace 30 buses per year and scrap about 30 buses," he said. "These (electric buses) would be in addition... Then, at some point, the decision would be made to replace diesel buses.

That's what other Canadian transit systems are doing. They are running them alongside (the diesel buses).