Winnipeg Testing Four Battery Electric Buses on Challenging Route


By Jonny Wakefield

December 4, 2014

Four buses quietly plying the streets of Winnipeg could herald a new day for transit fleets across the country.

Late last month, the Winnipeg Transit System unveiled four battery-electric buses, part of a federally-funded pilot project to shift diesel fleets to lower-greenhouse gas alternatives that could cost less to maintain. 

It's part of a four-year trial to determine whether Winnipeg Transit will shift a larger portion of its fleet to electric buses.

The buses, which were built by Winnipeg-based New Flyer Industries, run on Xcelsior electric batteries that can be fully charged in ten minutes at one of the system's high-capacity charging stations.

Sustainable Development Technology Canada contributed $3.4 million towards the $7 million project.

The buses can run for about five hours on a full charge. Each emits around 160 fewer tons of GHGs compared to diesel buses. New Flyer says each bus should save around $400,000 a year in fuel and maintenance costs. While running, the buses emit little more than a low hum.

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, only two-dozen such buses are in service in North American transit systems.

In Winnipeg, the buses run on a 40-kilometre, two-hour route to Richardson International Airport. The first bus began operation Sunday, and the remaining three are expected to be in service by January 2015.

"We didn't want an easy route," New Flyer President and CEO Paul Soubrytold Cleantech Canada, adding his company encouraged Winnipeg Transit to test the buses on a route with "a wide range of weather and traffic conditions."

Whether battery-powered vehicles will play a larger role in Winnipeg's 585-bus fleet depends largely on the success of this trial.

"We think it is the next shift in the paradigm within the industry," said transit director Dave Wardrop. "If it proves out, then we look at conversion."