City gets funding to buy four electric buses
St. Albert will get four electric buses as part of $3 million in federal and provincial funding announced Saturday.
The electric buses are the first of their kind in the country and are expected to use less fuel and require less maintenance.
Federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi, and St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud met with St. Albert City Council on Saturday.
The meeting came on the heels of the funding announcement made in Calgary. Sohi stopped by St. Albert to talk about local infrastructure needs with the city council.
“It is very important with our government to engage with municipalities of all sizes, to understand and listen to them, what their priorities are then design a federal program that reflects those priorities and needs,” Sohi said.
The four electric buses are in addition to four buses that received $2.1 million in funding from the provincial government’s GreenTRIP program.
The announcement on Saturday gave an additional $1,997,000 in federal funding and $998,500 in provincial funding to St. Albert for the electric buses and to replace the hoists in the transit garage.
The buses need less maintenance than diesel buses because they don’t have traditional vehicle maintenance needs such as oil changes and transmission problems.
They use about five times less fuel than that used by traditional diesel buses, with the equivalent of 11.5 litres per 100 kilometres. Overall they emit 44 to 51 per cent fewer greenhouse gasses.
“[This decision] signals that St. Albert is willing to move forward with that type of technology,” city councillor Wes Brodhead said. “It talks about the brand. It talks about us being a smart city. It also really talks about the whole drive to be environmentally sustainable and environmentally responsible. We want to be a leader in this regard and I think the people of St. Albert will be proud.”
But being a leader does come with some risks. The new technology is generally untested so there is some uncertainty. Minister Sohi said the life of the battery, trip length and the bus performance in the winter weather conditions are all risks.
“Those are manageable risks,” Sohi said. “If we don’t test those things then innovation doesn’t happen. If you don’t do that then nothing is going to change.”
Brodhead said that without provincial and federal funding, the purchase of the buses would not be possible. The city would not be able to foot the bill for the buses, which are more costly up front, and still have enough funding to transport residents.
Each bus will cost about $378,000 more than a diesel bus but transit found that the cost would be $477,000 less over the lifespan.
The first of four buses from the provincial grant are set to arrive in the city on Dec. 15, 2016 and the remaining three will arrive in Jan. 2017. It is not known yet when the buses announced on Saturday will arrive in St. Albert.
Along with discussing electric buses, council discussed the need of social housing in St. Albert.
“St. Albert is a very fortunate community – a very prosperous community – they do have housing challenges because they want to make sure that those who are struggling don’t have to leave the community,” Sohi said.