Toronto Public Transit Adds Electric Buses To Their Fleet

On November 13, 2017 the Toronto Transit Corporation (TTC) announced a plan to launch a pilot project that would introduce electric buses to their fleet by 2019. This is all a part of the Toronto’s constant plans to improve public transit and reduce the cities carbon footprint. The objective of this pilot project is to compare the performance and reliability of three different electric bus supplier. But before the results of the pilot project are even in, electric buses are receiving strong support. Bem Case, head of vehicle programs stated that “this was not a test”, instead it was “the first step in the adoption of this technology” 

The city of Toronto has always been a leader in terms of public transit. On December 17, 2017, the TTC opened the Vaughan extension that connects one of Toronto neighbor cities to its expansive subway system. It also has one of the largest fleets of hybrid buses in North America. Clearly, all of this comes at a cost. The initial purchase will cost up to purchasing these electric vehicles is $50 million, for only about 30 buses, but the federal government has already promised funding. Furthermore, electric buses can potentially save the city millions in reduced maintenance and fuel costs.

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There are many benefits of electric buses which are obvious, and some others are less obvious. One of the obvious ones is that these vehicles will run exclusively onboard electric batteries, so there will be no exhaust fumes. The introduction of electric buses will reduce the city’s carbon footprint over time. Furthermore, there will be an immediate improvement in the city's air quality due to less pollution. The quality of the air we breathe in has a great effect on our health, especially in traffic-heavy cities. A clearer air means a healthier life for most inhabitants of the city.

On the other hand, even in a world without climate change, these buses would be a significant improvement on current technology.  Another positive effect of the introduction of electric buses is the reduction in noise pollution. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), noise is second only to air pollution in the impact it has on health. It is a major cause of problems such as hearing loss, heart disease, learning problems in children and sleep disturbance. Electric buses do not make as much noise as our regular fuel-powered vehicles. This will mean less roadway noises emanating from vehicles when electric buses are used instead.



In a vehicle design, the battery compartment takes considerable less space at the front of the vehicle, then an engine compartment. In the case of conventional buses, the engine is covered by the bonnet/hood, there are several connected mechanical parts which are responsible for the working mechanism of vehicles. On the other hand, electric buses there is no need for complex engine arrangements as much as fuel-powered vehicles, therefore there is more space for passengers. Furthermore, since there is no engine arrangement electric bus are easier to maintain. These are just some of the positive impacts of electric buses.



Despite these benefits, the introduction of electric buses might not be cost-effective. The initial purchase cost of $50 million is quite a lot of money. Furthermore, there might be unforeseen cost. As of today, electricity price is lower than gas prices. However, the gas prices have been falling while electricity prices have been rising especially in Ontario. It is possible to power the fleet with renewables. Using renewable energy means it would be free but the infrastructure for this would be expensive and might be unsuitable due to the variable output of renewable energy sources. Residents of Toronto are going to need to wait a few years to see the benefits of electric buses.


Matthew Griffin