Is A TTC Bus Technology Gerrymander In The Works?

At its September 5, 2017, Board Meeting, the TTC considered a report recommending the purchase of 440 “clean diesel” buses from Nova Bus, a division of Volvo. This sort of thing would normally sail through because the Board has considered and approved future bus plans at previous meetings. In this particular case, one important aspect of the order is that 325 of the vehicles would be delivered before the deadline for federal PTIF (Public Transit Infrastructure Fund) grants that end on March 31, 2019. A further 115 buses would be procured with the “standard” arrangement for TTC capital financing, but no federal contribution.

This procurement went through a common pattern with an RFI (Request for Information) in October 2016 and an RFP (Request for Proposal) in April 2017. Two proposals were received, one from Nova and the other from Flyer Industries, and both met the technical requirements. The decision to award to Nova Bus was based on pricing (Nova’s bid was $300.5 million while Flyer’s was $345.0 million).

In an unusual move, the Board entertained a last-minute addition to the deputations list, two representatives of a builder of battery buses, BYD. This is a Chinese manufacturer with an office in Los Angeles and, more recently, representatives in Canada. BYD did not bid on this RFP because it specified clean diesel technology which they do not supply.

Their presentation and associated Q&A went on at some length, far moreso than public deputations are normally allowed, and it was quite clear that this was a sales pitch for their product. In any other Board meeting, this would have been stopped as an abuse of process, but this situation was under the charmed support of Deputy Mayor Minnan-Wong who is a member of the TTC Board.

Many claims were made for BYD technology and for the scope of the battery bus industry that went largely unchallenged.

In response, TTC management advised that they would be issuing an RFI for alternative technology buses to four supplies, including Nova and Flyer, later in the week, and that they planned to bring back an overview report to the Board in November.

The situation became more interesting with a motion proposed by Minnan-Wong and eventually approved by the Board with only two votes against that would reduce the contract award to Nova to 325 vehicles and pursue the remaining 115 as a potential for a different propulsion technology.

Another wrinkle was added by Chair Colle (one of the two “no” votes on Minnan-Wong’s proposal). The PTIF funds allocated to Toronto were split between the TTC and the City, and the TTC has found projects that can qualify for this funding. However, the City is unable to spend all of its available funding and is looking for projects that could soak up the shortfall. Colle proposes that TTC management report on what projects might be brought forward for this purpose.

During the discussion, there were comments pro and con the TTC’s becoming embroiled in yet another new transit technology. They have already been burned by the Hybrid Bus fiasco, ironically a scheme they were forced into by a combination of environmental enthusiasm at Council and federal subsidies that were only available for “green” technology. A good deal of that federal money went not to additional buses, but to paying the extra cost of the hybrid vehicles. The BYD reps proposed exactly the same thing for their products – yes, they were more expensive than regular buses, but the feds would pay and the TTC could save money in the long run on operating costs. Of course this approach would negate the ability to buy more transit infrastructure with the federal funding, and of course would not apply to any buses bought outside of the PTIF envelope.

TTC management including CEO Andy Byford made the point strongly that it is staff’s job to get service out onto the road, and the 440 bus order was to allow retirement of the oldest and least reliable vehicles. Battery bus technology is evolving quickly, but beyond some large fleets in China, cannot be said to be well-established in North America or Europe.

It is quite clear that there has been lobbying behind the scenes, primarily to the Deputy Mayor, for several months. Below are snapshots from the City of Toronto’s Lobbyist Registry. (Click to enlarge.)

The lobbyist company, Earnscliffe, is well-known. The initial contact by them corresponds to the point at which the TTC issued its RFP for diesel buses in April 2017.

Any company is free to lobby, but it is quite unusual for this to result in a direct presentation to a Board meeting where a contract award is up for approval. We have learned recently how political meddling has influenced advice and decisions at both Metrolinx and the City of Toronto, and this continues a disturbing trend.

Worst of all, the TTC staff report on alternative technology buses will now be under a cloud. Will it be a technically honest report, or will it be spun to suit the position of a well-connected member of the Board? By giving credibility to BYD’s presentation, has the Board placed TTC staff in the unenviable position of debunking claims made by one would-be vendor? Will there be another round of vendor presentations attacking whatever staff brings forward?

Members of the TTC Board just love to think of themselves as progressive, forward thinkers who will embrace potential transit improvements. One Board member, Councillor De Baeaemaeker, even launched into an attack on “clean diesel” by reference to all of the pollution created by exploration, extraction and refining, while carefully avoiding the fact that a great deal of Ontario’s base electrical load comes from nuclear power. That is where overnight charging would come from, but this delicate point was not part of his thesis.

If the TTC invests in electric buses, regardless of the manufacturer, this will require a garage with very different capabilities from any they now own. A substantial power supply will be needed for all of the overnight charging, and repair facilities will have to be attuned to electric, not diesel, vehicles. The TTC does not have any increase in garage capacity in the pipeline beyond McNicoll Garage, already under construction, and it will easily be the early 2020s before there is a garage where a new fleet could be based, assuming that it is a net addition and not simply a replacement for existing buses. (McNicoll, although a new garage, will simply take the pressure off all of the existing garages which are badly overcrowded.)

The irony here is not lost on those of us who followed the TTC through its abandonment of electric buses a few decades ago when beautiful, clean compressed natural gas was a panacea to solve both our diesel woes and TTC management’s distaste for trolley buses.

Battery buses may well have a future in Toronto and in world transit generally, but the way this has been introduced at the TTC leaves a foul taste, a sense that the fix is already in. Toronto’s transit technology choices have been gerrymandered more than once in the past to suit politicians and businesses looking to cash in on new technology. We have had enough of this, thank you.

21 thoughts on “Is A TTC Bus Technology Gerrymander In The Works?

  1. These are the reasons I have lost faith in the TTC Board. They have some new fangled technology that looks good on the surface being presented and Denzil let’s the three ring circus continue.

    You think the TTC would have learned from the Hybrids and especially CNG busses about flashy technology. The CNG buses had to be pulled from service due to the potential calamity that would ensue if the tanks leaked in places like Lawrence Station IIRC.

    One thing I learned about Chinese tech is that sometimes they cut corners to make things work. Take Chinese made laptop chargers.. the things tend to overheat quickly.

    As I have said before.. the largest transit system in Canada is not the sort of place you want to use as a testing ground for highly experimental technology. Try it out in York Region, Guelph or Waterloo but not somewhere it can go horribly wrong on the world stage.

    I would like to mention that it would look good on Denzil if this ends up going badly, I find him to be a proponent of the the absurd, abstract thinking process.


  2. Would I be wrong in presupposing that someone, somewhere has an idea for Danforth Garage?

    As for the surplus of funds, could the TTC use that to pay for Time Expired Transfer or TYSSE operating costs or can it only be used for capital projects?

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: Danforth is likely to be redeveloped with more focus on “the community” although where the TTC functions now at that site will go is a bit of a mystery.

    As for the “surplus”, it exists entirely because the TTC has run less service than they originally planned for 2017. It will go back into the pot at the City who have already counted it in their potential “surplus” for 2017. It is not available for TYSSE or time-based transfers because these are ongoing costs and the surplus is one time money.


  3. TTC can use Danforth for this pet project on electric buses without compromising the day-to-day operations of existing bus garages. The duration to make an existing bus garage capable of storing and maintaining electric buses will have a negative affects on service. But we all know that won’t happen, so expect service disruptions as they upgrade a garage.

    Will this RFI be for electric buses or for any clean propulsion for buses, like CNG, hybrid, etc. It looks like they are focusing on electric buses, but also hinted at other technology?

    Steve: They were being a bit vague, but realistically, it’s electric that they will be looking at.


  4. “One Board member, Councillor De Baeaemaeker, even launched into an attack on “clean diesel” by reference to all of the pollution created by exploration, extraction and refining, while carefully avoiding the fact that a great deal of Ontario’s base electrical load comes from nuclear power. That is where overnight charging would come from, but this delicate point was not part of his thesis.”

    I’m curious where you stand on the debate between electrifying GO lines vs their diesel trains. Clean diesel is a marketing misnomer, and nuclear power’s pollutants are much more concentrated and containable (when properly managed).

    Not saying they should go with the electric bus option – I’ve got no idea about their range and reliability – but not wanting to go electric over because it would utilize our already existing nuclear reactors?

    Steve: Clean diesel is cleaner that diesel buses used to be. As for “clean diesel” vs hydro, I have yet to see a comparison for the southern Ontario energy market to establish the balance. There is also the question of the general benefit of transit in moving people who would otherwise be in cars.

    I mention this only because I think that De Baeremaeker was grandstanding, picking the “environmental” argument that suited what he wanted to support. In another context, I am quite sure he could launch into a diatribe about nukes.

    As for the proponents of battery technology, that may be mature some day, and a lot of work is being done in this field. However, I have seen a rather long list of charlatans peddling technologies not for their inherent worth, but because they will advance their careers, attract development funding or underwrite investment in manufacturing. Transit isn’t even part of the discussion.

    As for GO electrification, I support the idea, but wish Metrolinx wasn’t so half-hearted about service levels. What they are planning will barely get them to 2030 let alone beyond.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Assuming a 250-bus garage with 85% in service (212 buses), a 250km “range” at 1.2kWh/km, at a generous 90% efficiency, and a 12 hour off-peak window for charging, then this hypothetical garage needs at least a 6MW supply. Given that a perfectly even load is unlikely, and allowing for other demand at the garage, the capacity would likely need to be closer to 10MW, which (granted I’m extremely rusty on this) probably requires a 69kV dedicated feeder. Which needs a proper right-of-way to a distribution station…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A 250 km range? Try 160 km, this is what we are experiencing in southern California. And that of course is in an environment where the low temperature never goes below 5 degrees Celsius. Unless you want to add charging stations along the route to supplement the overnight garage charging….imagine a fleet of 36 Finch Wests at Finch Station, clogging up the bus bays and running late but unable to leave until they’ve charged up for 10 minutes.


  7. Just curious if you have any insight into why the DRL isn’t included in the list of capital projects in the CEO report…according to the project site, the TPAP will be starting shortly (similar to the SSE, which is in the CEO report)…and Presto which is a metrolinx/TTC combo project…which is also in the CEO report…

    Given that we are spending $150 million on it, seems like it might make an appearance at least…(Presto is only 50$M and on the list).

    Steve: The SSE is different in its political profile and the fact that it is a project approved, at least in principle, to go forward to construction. Presto is in active use. The DRL, for all its supporters may love its newfound profile, is still only a line on a map.


  8. I wonder if Ballard Power Systems, or any other ‘clean hydrogen’ marketers have lobbied members of the TTC board? They’ve clearly been working on the provincial politicians.

    Steve: A quick check of the Lobbyist Registry doesn’t turn up anything.


  9. Steve, please keep us updated on whether your report on this gains broader media traction. It certainly should. (I hope you are fielding inquiries already.)


  10. It would be delightful if we could actually develop this suspect situation into a broader analysis of transport energy and policy vs. normal carruption and daily climate cariminality. Absolutely it has to be a broader analysis to the lifecycle embodied energy/climate costs ie. going beyond the mere ‘operating’ energy/climate issues to the ‘capital’ energy/climate numbers. Having an ability to recapture braking energy and getting smoother (easier) starts with hybrids/batteries is really good, but the full energy costs of battery production are substantial, (leaving reliability issues out), and we don’t count the shipping energies from overseas either. The nukes are also desperately needing this full analysis, including any adequate/safe waste facility (yet to be built ) and monitoring plus a margin for failure/remedial actions 20,000 years later. And if Councillor deBaeremaeker is such a committed environmentalist, let’s add up the Suspect Subway Extension’s tonnage of concrete and carbon dioxide content vs. on-surface options, but that inteferes with how other levels of government like to encourage concrete usage for ‘infrastructure’ to help with climate change.

    And meanwhile, as a stellar indicator of just how feeble and messed up our City is, oh, “the City is unable to spend all of its available funding and is looking for projects that could soak up the shortfall.” of PTIF. Gee, there’s a small bit of Bloor St. E. between Sherbourne and Church that has been in the 2001 Bike Plan but remains undone, and that might be $25,000 for lane line repainting, done overnight, and the local communities are OK with changes for bike safety to get the bikes off the sidewalks. As a Bloor/Danforth bikeway is surely a way to have some quick subway relief in the short term and shorter haul (though people like Steven Wickens are often doing a longer bike trip vs. transit despite the risks), how ludicrous and incompetent are we? (More accurately, how ludicrous and imcompetent are our suburban masters – the core is most usually outvoted on many things like subways and bike lanes by the more suburban majority).

    Not only do we need thinking about what new (often surface) corridors are possible and needed for sub-regional transit usage, we must be thinking of having some transit relief via bikeways, and this function is missed, including in the 1992 report that placed Bloor/Danforth as the best route for an east/west bikeway. The current trial of bike lanes in the Annex area is about a third of what was to be studied a decade ago, and it too misses this function of subway relief as a basic concept, being a concentrating of bike facilities, and not delivering continuity, Continuity involves planning beyond a ward-by-ward basis, and some political will which some Councillors – eg. Councillor Bailao – won’t/don’t have or accept planning, or will have enough allies in the suburbs to make sure logical things don’t get done. (Though at times, the City doesn’t do biking things well, and we don’t always have to have a bike lane to make safer riding, and it’s very hard to advocate for some of us cyclists sometimes).

    Transport leads our GHG emissions; at times the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario has been very good on this topic. As the severity of disasters etc. amplify, we need to explore and do things differently. That surely has to include different politricks, perhaps impossible with this current set-up. Bringing back two year terms might be a good thing, and modifying all EAs to develop a full energy/climate analysis is essential. This latter point absolutely would adjust the TPAPs to move beyond ‘any type of subway as long as it’s here’ viewpoint; and I do hope all of you saw that truly brilliant Corrigan cartoon in the Sat. Star to accompany Ms. Pagliaro’s devastating critique of that Suspect Subway Extension, which wouldn’t be so bad if we charged the cars far more appropriately, and did have some extra billions to burn each and every year.


  11. Brampton is getting up to 10 electric buses and 4 overhead electric charging stations by both New Flyer Industries and NOVA Bus, which could hit Brampton’s streets as early as spring 2018.

    So, why is Toronto not part of this?

    Steve: I am sure that the TTC will be quite interested in what develops there. Flyer and Nova will both be invited to respond to the new technology RFI.

    Note that a system with multiple charging stations enroute is different from the technology proposed by BYD where vehicles would get one big charge overnight at their garage.


  12. Are there any reports or data on how much a bus travels in a day (which would depend on the route no doubt)? I’m guessing with the new TETRA-based VISION system they’ll be able to collect a lot more data (in real time), but just taking the odometer or tripmeter would presumably be a decent estimate as to what would be needed for an all-electric bus.

    For hybrids, IIIRC one of the problems was that there were very little (or no) fuel savings on the inner-suburb routes, which kind of makes sense: hybrids work best in stop-and-go or slow (<20 kph) traffic where there is a lot of idling. Which would mainly mean the more urban routes like the below-St. Clair portions of Landsdowne or Dufferin.

    Given that the trolley bus wires were ripped out long ago, I'm guessing they're unlikely to be put back in. Besides maintenance of the cabling infrastructure, are there any other disadvantages of trolley buses? (Especially nowadays, since better batteries are available for backup / short-hop disconnected use.)

    Steve: It would be quite easy to calculate the mileage for any route for a bus that stayed out all day. Take the scheduled speed and multiply by the number of hours, them stir in a bit more for garage dead heading. Note that mileage is not the only determinant because some loads, notably hotel services such as lighting, heating and AC, depend on the hours of service, not travel speed. A bus on a slow route like Bay would run up fewer miles than one on the Airport Rocket, but it would also have a lot more start/stop operation.

    The main issue with trolley buses is that below a certain level of service (and I don’t know what that is today) the capital cost of the power infrastructure is not offset by the relative simplicity of the bus. The balance will change even further whenever battery technology really matures.


  13. While the manner of presentation may have been unusual I see nothing wrong with it being discussed. Are these the same battery buses used in Oakville?

    Steve: What battery buses in Oakville?

    I suggest BYD be offered the opportunity to supply a test fleet of say 10 battery buses for a one year trial and then to be allowed to bid for a larger fleet if found to be reliable and provided they are substantially built in Canada.

    Steve: There is a small problem that there are already battery buses from other vendors. Why should BYD get preferential access to this program?

    They could be assigned to Danforth garage and used on the Downtown route (or, elsewhere) where they would be a welcome relief (albeit tiny) for exhaust in heavy traffic. An alternative could be Davenport garage also shut down for daily bus service use.

    Steve: I hate to point this out, but neither Danforth nor Davenport have any facilities for bus maintenance these days.

    Remember the Ikarus artic buses? They soon turned into junk! Then the LNG buses were deemed dangerous. Then the Hybrid buses that everybody (Province and TTC) because they would save about 1/3 of fuel (30-35% ?) but then they actually got only about 5%. How come? Nobody thought to go to the Big Apple and check out the buses and see how they were actually used. In NYC they run at a slow speed at all times due to congestion. Here the TT&C method of driving is “pedal to the metal” until a few feet from the stop and hit the brakes! Repeat!

    Let somebody else run the risk. I am betting BYD will do whatever they have to the get a foot in the door at TTC.


  14. David Weil | September 6, 2017 at 12:03 am

    “Assuming a 250-bus garage with 85% in service (212 buses), a 250km “range” at 1.2kWh/km, at a generous 90% efficiency, and a 12 hour off-peak window for charging, then this hypothetical garage needs at least a 6MW supply. Given that a perfectly even load is unlikely, and allowing for other demand at the garage, the capacity would likely need to be closer to 10MW, which (granted I’m extremely rusty on this) probably requires a 69kV dedicated feeder. Which needs a proper right-of-way to a distribution station…”

    Where do you get the 69 kV feeder line from? Since power is the product of current times the line to line voltage times the square root of 3 for a 3 phase AC feed if I remember my power calculations from the late 60s correctly you are assuming that the current in the line would be about 85 A.

    Most substation feeders in the old city are at 13.8 kV while the outer suburbs were 27.6 kV. but I think that these are line to neutral voltages. The current required at 27.6 kV line to line would be about 210 A and for 13.8 kV about 420 A. If these are line to neutral voltages then the currents are 120 A at 27.6 kV and 240 at 27.8 kV. All of this assumes a perfect power factor of 1 but it would probably be in the .9 to .95 range which would raise the currents 5 to 10%. Your figures do not compute. I am not sure mine do because I haven’t done these since the late 60s.

    Steve: It is actually easier to look at the vendor specs for their charging systems and calculate the total draw that would be represented by charging a few hundred buses during the same overnight period.


  15. Steve wrote: “Many claims were made for BYD technology and for the scope of the battery bus industry that went largely unchallenged.”

    No kidding. I took a look at their website. The first paragraph in the linked webpage contains a couple of whoppers. To quote from that page:

    “Developed by BYD’s expansive team of over 15,000 R&D Engineers”

    15,000 capital “E” Engineers? Colour me skeptical.

    “BYD Iron-Phosphate Battery has been used in more than 2,500 transit buses and 35,000 EVs and PHEVs around the world making it the most widely tested and proven EV battery on the planet.”

    That’s quite a load of bovine effluent. For what it’s worth, the most widely tested and proven EV battery on the planet would have to be good old-fashioned lead-acid.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I agree with Kevin Love, this is a company that looks very sketchy. Their main website has financial reports and information 7 years out of date! It is unclear if it is even audited.

    A Google search shows this firm had a disastrous attempt to demonstrate their tech in California that wound up with allegations of labour law violations and a defective product that didn’t do anything near what was advertised.

    Did DMW do even basic research on this firm before inviting them in? This smells like another Sino-Forest disaster.


  17. Well now since the Nova Bus will dominate the bus fleet within the next few years, will the TTC finally be honest with themselves and update the loading standards for the number of riders that can board on a 40 foot Nova? There is no way that the same number of people (crush load) can fit on that bus compared to a 40 foot Orion VII (diesel or hybrid).

    I have seen multiple trips at rush hour where riders have been stranded at the starting point of the trip (ie: a subway station) that otherwise would not have been stranded had the bus been an Orion VII. A quick eyeball test would show them that the Nova Bus can’t accommodate as many people as they’re claiming and I’m sure those buses are reducing capacity during the rush hour.

    For all of the boasting the TTC does about how new trains and streetcars have resulted in an increase in capacity, they’re not being honest at all about the number of people that the new buses can accommodate. Although the number would be much smaller, it would nevertheless lead to an increase in operational costs.


  18. Robert Wightman | September 6, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    Where do you get the 69 kV feeder line from? Since power is the product of current times the line to line voltage times the square root of 3 for a 3 phase AC feed if I remember my power calculations from the late 60s correctly you are assuming that the current in the line would be about 85 A.

    You’re completely correct. I was mis-remembering and conflating some different numbers. A 27.6kV feeder (though likely not a 13.8kV feeder) would be enough.

    (I was trying to come at it from the other end – a typical (HydroOne) 230/44kV step-down transformer has a 75MVA nominal non-emergency rating, and a typical distribution station is set up to supply 8 feeders. I didn’t account for 2 transformers on the supply side of the station bus, nor the fact that the feeders can obviously be unequally loaded. In fact, a 44kV feeder can – at least in theory – supply 50+MVA based on its overcurrent protection. Which I’ve just now looked up. 🙂

    I warned you I was extremely rusty…


  19. Steve: The following comment is from wklis who left it in the wrong thread.

    When the TTC was “born” in 1921, Toronto had a population of 521,893. They experimented with trolley buses from 1922 until 1925 on Mt. Pleasant, when they were replaced with streetcars.

    Today, Toronto has a population of 2.81 million (within its boundaries). Too big to experiment. However, experimenting should be done with the smaller cities surrounding Toronto first, with input from Toronto.


  20. Although there is technology risk in adopting electric buses, we have a lot more experience with electrification technology now, so the risk is a LOT lower than with those early hybrid buses. Hybrid buses were a bust because it involved three new things: a big battery, figuring out how to cram a diesel engine and an electric engine into one vehicle, and figuring out how to blend the two power sources. We now know that having two propulsion systems in a vehicle increases maintenance costs to the point that it outweighs the cost benefits of saving diesel. Battery electric buses only involve one new thing: how to take an existing electric trolley bus design and sticking a big battery on it. The risk is a lot less. All transit agencies know how electric trolley buses work and behave. There is only one unknown: what is the effect of having a battery there? For the first few buses, Toronto probably won’t need a lot of new electrical infrastructure. We can likely even ask the bus companies to leave the old trolley bus poles on top and charge them using the existing streetcar wires.

    Steve: Streetcar overhead is energized at 550VDC which is not compatible with the sort of chargers normally used for these buses. Also there is the ground return via the track, not a second overhead wire. The main power feed from Hydro to the TTC is at substations which are near streetcar barns, not bus garages. There are not old buses with trolley poles sitting on top. Finally, DMW proposes that the initial order be for 135 vehicles, roughly half the capacity of a garage. This is not a trivial installation especially, as BYD proposes, all charging is done overnight at the garage.

    Electric buses are also the only viable thing on the roadmap for reducing carbon emissions, so it’s not even a question of “if” Toronto adopts them but a question of “when.” As Canada slowly raises its carbon pricing, the cost of running diesel buses will become higher and higher, and the only alternative is electric buses. In 10-20 years, Toronto will be running an electric bus fleet. The question is whether we should start that process now or later. The early adoption phase is actually way past. Cities like Montreal have already accepted that they will be phasing in electric buses, and are starting to evaluate self-driving bus technology.

    BYD is not some mysterious company. The company and its buses aren’t perfect, but LA was pleased enough with its buses that it’s buying more. BYD buses have been used in Canadian trials for a few years already. New Flyer and Nova are now finally ready to stick big batteries on their trolley buses and sell them to use too.

    Steve: I might have more faith in BYD if they had not shown up as a last minute add-on to the TTC meeting clearly sponsored by the Deputy Mayor in what had the smell of an arrangement that was less than arm’s length. Their presentation made many claims that their reps could not back up with details. Their presentation had the feel of “promotion”, not of technical depth.

    Info on their website is a bit on the thin side. They have a map purporting to show where their buses are used, but no detail on quantities or age (e.g. fleets versus a few sample buses, length of in-service use), and the popups on their map are wildly out of place geographically. Many of the links in the “News” section don’t work. The word “amateur” just screams out of things like this. And they want to sell us buses?


  21. BYD is well established and not sketchy. I believe it’s currently the largest electric car manufacturer in the world. China has more experiences with buses than Canada, so I wouldn’t dismiss them simply because they are a Chinese firm.

    However, I think Proterra has the best designed electric buses. I would like to see them considered. Both BYD and Proterra buses are well reviewed by passengers and drivers, and cities are returning for larger orders – which is a good sign. I do not know how they perform regarding fleet management and maintenance. The problem with a lot of the older manufacturers, like Nova, is that they use batteries that are too small, or have adapted diesel platforms for electric, limiting the tech’s benefits.

    Well designed electric buses offer better passenger experience (quieter, less vibration, more space, less air pollution), better performance, more power, cheaper maintenance, and virtually eliminates pollution (CO2, NOX, sulphur, particulate matter, diesel, oil, brake pad dust). The upfront cost, adaptation to the new tech and changes to the maintenance and storage areas are the biggest issues, but probably worth it. Winter range can be an issue if undersized batteries are purchased, and battery lifespan might be issues (minimized with proper quality & heat management).

    Electric buses reduce the carbon footprint regardless of the grid, but with Ontario’s quite clean grid they offer huge environmental benefits, even considering battery manufacturing pollution, provided the buses can supplied fast enough that the fleet size continues to meet the demand.

    Besides the climate change issue, electric buses also offer immense local health benefits, and can be probably be justified on this basis alone. Air pollution has a lot of health costs: lung cancer, other cancers, heart attacks, susceptibility to diseases, accelerated aging, shortened lifespan, asthma, lung damage, heat islands leading to summer heat deaths, etc. Diesel buses are running all day in urban environments, are harming the driver, passengers, pedestrians, bikers, other drivers, children, and people living near the roads.

    As a commuter who lives downtown, I can’t wait for the buses to go electric. It will be one of the biggest improvements in the quality of city life. The political interference in the procurement process is not great, but if that’s what it takes for the TTC to seriously consider electric buses, then I’ll accept it. They are viable now, and they will be a huge improvement. I don’t think we should wait until the next procurement round to even begin considering them.

    Steve: I would not dismiss BYD simply because they are Chinese, but some of their PR overstates the degree to which they have a presence in the west for transit vehicles. There is a huge difference between a car and a bus in design requirements and duty cycle.

    Frankly, I think the reps who showed up at the TTC had too much the air of salesmen who wanted to present the sunniest possible outlook for their product. The fact that their appearance was engineered by a Commissioner who has been lobbied by them on an ongoing basis for months left a very bad taste. If someone has a good product, they should not have to sneak through the back door to sell it. Some of us still remember the procurement scandals at City Hall. Not saying that’s what is going on here, but the history should be a lesson for all.


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