|Minister of Jobs and Industry Kevin Chief was all smiles behind the wheel of a new battery-electric bus that will join Winnipeg Transit’s fleet Friday. Shane Gibson/Metro|
Winnipeg Transit is charging ahead with a plan to test drive new electric buses that could eventually see the city’s entire fleet switched over to the emerging technology.
The first of four battery-electric buses will begin regular service on a route to and from the airport Friday, part of a four-year test run for New Flyer Industries, who developed the zero-emission buses with help from partners including Manitoba Hydro and Red River College.
“The innovation that this project brings offers tremendous promise to us as a public transit provider and to the entire transit industry,” said Winnipeg Transit director, Dave Wardrop, who told reporters if the pilot goes well the technology may very well replace Transit’s diesel fleet. “We view this as the real future, the real trend.”
On a full charge the buses can run for about five hours, but the test route through Winnipeg will see them head out on a 40 km, two-hour drive before stopping to recharge at a special charging station built at the airport.
The recharging process takes 10 minutes, and will be done while passengers get on and off at the stop.
Wardrop said the technology is expected to save $400,000 in fuel costs over the life of a single bus.
All four of the buses will run on the 20 Watt route, which Metro was assured wasn’t chosen for the pun, but because its length, speeds and loads are typical of many central business district routes in North America.
“We didn’t ask Winnipeg Transit for an easy route,” explained New Flyer’s president and CEO Paul Soubry, who said as well as going directly through the city, the buses will also be tested through Winnipeg’s famously less than pleasant winters. “We’re putting this one through tough service.”
All four of the buses are expected to be in service by early net year.