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The TTC Battery-Electric Bus Demos

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.

Demonstrators to Arrive

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.


Battery-Electric Buses Image Archive