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The TTC Battery-Electric Buses

Text by James Bow

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In November 2017, almost a quarter century after the TTC abandoned electric bus operation in Toronto, the TTC received a report on the possibility of reintroducing electric bus service, without the use of trolley wires.

Electric vehicle technology had improved significantly in the intervening period, with battery-powered vehicles able to provide considerable range on single charges. Public transit’s use of fixed routes and layover points also offered the prospect of putting in installations en route where vehicles could charge up between runs. With rising gasoline prices and increasing pressure to reduce carbon emissions, the TTC had embarked on a target of having an emission-free transit fleet by 2040.

Great Strides for Batteries

But while battery-electric buses were more capable now than they’d been five years before, the TTC still had to assess the technology to see if it was feasible for Toronto’s streets, and to see if a particular bus maker should be given the contract to provide the TTC with an electric bus fleet.

At its November 2017 meeting, TTC staff recommended that:

  1. The Board delegate authority to the TTC CEO to negotiate and enter into up to three contracts for the supply of a total of 30 long range battery electric buses not to exceed the total project cost of $50M based on the following:

    a) The award of contract(s) will be based on negotiating an acceptable agreement, satisfactory to the TTC General Council with the only three qualified long range battery electric bus suppliers, New Flyer, Proterra and BYD that are compliant with Transport Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; and

    b) All 30 battery electric buses are to be delivered no later than March 31, 2019 in order to ensure that the buses are eligible for PTIF funding.

  2. The Board delegate authority to the TTC CEO to enter into a contract(s) with up to two suppliers for the supply of 230 new generation hybrid electric buses not to exceed the total project cost of $230M based on the following:

    a) The award of the contract(s) will be based on negotiating an acceptable agreement, satisfactory to TTC General Council with the only two bus suppliers, Nova Bus and New Flyer, capable of manufacturing hybrid electric buses that are compliant with Transport Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; and

    b) Hybrid electric buses are to be delivered no later than March 31, 2019 in order to ensure that the buses are eligible for PTIF funding

  3. Staff return to the TTC Board in Q1 of 2018 with an information report providing award details with respect to recommendations 1 and 2.

A Call for Demonstrators

With these recommendations in mind, the TTC called for production companies to send demonstration buses to the commission, so that front-line drivers and maintenance workers could get first hand experience on the new vehicles. In April 2017, the TTC CEO reported that three manufacturers had stepped forward: BYD, New Flyer and Proterra. They would each supply up to 10 buses each by the end of March 2019, and supply demonstration vehicles by the end of April 2018. On April 16, 2018, three companies shipped their demonstration or concept buses to Mount Dennis garage for viewing by maintenance staff, and photographs. Over the next four days, these buses were displayed at every bus garage, as well as at the Hillcrest Complex and Leslie Barns. The public got a chance to view these buses on April 21 at the Richview Collegiate Institute as part of Ward 4’s Community Environment Day.

The TTC signed an order with New Flyer on May 19, 2018, to purchase 10 battery-electric buses. These were of the company’s XE40 Xcelsior CHARGE series. This new series of bus had seen trial service in Winnipeg and was on order for Vancouver, Chicago, New York, Portland, Salt Lake City, and Alameda, California. The model boasted the following specifications (courtesy CPTDB):

  • Measurements:
    • Length: 41’
    • Width: 102”
    • Height: 130”
    • Wheelbase: 283.75”
    • Turning radius: 44’
    • Curb weight: 31,000 lbs
  • Motor: Siemens ELFA2 permanent magnet traction motor (direct drive)
  • Axles:
    • Front: MAN VOK 07
    • Rear: MAN HY-1350 single reduction
  • Brakes: All wheel disc
  • HVAC: Thermo King RLFE
  • Electrical system: Parker Vansco multiplex
  • Floor: Composite subfloor at rear interior step with ACQ Plywood remainder, Altro Transflor, Gerflor Tarabus, RCA rubber, Treadflex flooring
  • Tire size: 305/70R22.5

On June 12, 2018, the TTC Board decided to increase its order of 30 initial battery-electric buses to 60, with an additional 10 vehicles purchased from all three manufacturers who had stepped up. The buses would be grouped in the 3700 series, with New Flyers taking up numbers 3700-3719, the BYD Auto K9M model 3720-3739, and the Proterra Catalyst BE40 receiving numbers 3740-3759. However, at its meeting on Wednesday, May 8, the TTC decided against ordering an additional 10 buses from BYD, meaning that only buses 3720-3729 would arrive from that class.

New Flyer’s XE40 was the first to arrive, with bus #3700 shipped to Arrow Road and arriving on the afternoon of April 14, 2019. Toronto mayor John Tory announced the arrival on Twitter while dignitaries posed for photographs. The TTC announced the new bus would undergo a few weeks of testing at the garage before being put into service.


Battery-Electric Buses Image Archive