Edmonton spent millions on electric buses that are not roadworthy

One Calgary city councillor has urged his colleagues to press pause on developing its own fleet.

Edmonton spent millions on electric buses that are not roadworthy
Facebook/ Bob Korneluk
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The City of Edmonton has left taxpayers on the hook for a $60 million boondoggle in which three-quarters of their electric buses don’t work.

Although 6% of its 1,000-bus fleet is electric, most are inoperable with poor immediate prospects for parts to fix them, reported the Edmonton Journal.

“Parts are not available to properly run their buses […] it’s very problematic,” said Steve Bradshaw, president and business agent for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569, which represents Edmonton workers in operations, maintenance and security.

He cites pandemic-induced closures by the company for the parts shortage.

To add insult to injury, Proterra, the American company the city purchased the electric buses from, recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. 

As of writing, Edmonton is seeking $1.3 million and fulfillment of service and warranties for their fleet.

Courtesy of the stalled Edmonton pilot, one Calgary city councillor has urged his colleagues to press pause on developing its own fleet of electric buses.

“Regarding the City of Calgary’s plans to potentially purchase 259 electric buses […] perhaps we should wait and see how the Edmonton pilot went before we spend millions of taxpayer dollars,” said Ward 13 city councillor Dan McLean. 

He cites more than half of Edmonton's electric fleet is “not road worthy” over range issues.

“Proterra, the company that repairs them just declared bankruptcy,” added McLean, "whose batteries our supplier relies on.”

As of November, the city installed 14 electric bus charging stations as part of their Spring Gardens pilot of 14 28-foot buses.

They procured batteries for the electric buses at the start of 2022 and installed charging equipment earlier this year. However, delivery of the ‘net-zero’ shuttles has been delayed due to supply chain issues. 

The city intends to deploy 259 40-foot electric buses by 2026 pending a successful pilot, with the estimated costs pegged at $14 million — of which half comes from the Government of Alberta’s Emissions Reduction Alberta grant program.

However, Calgary Transit confirmed Wednesday they have yet to draft a contract for the 40-foot buses, as they remain in the design stage.

“We remain focused on introducing our battery electric shuttles to Calgary and are collaborating with our vendor to get our vehicles as quickly as possible,” said the City of Calgary in a statement.

Calgary Transit is moving to a fleet of zero-emission buses to support The City’s corporate-emission reduction goals in the Calgary Climate Strategy-Pathways to 2050. 

“The pilot supports The City’s Green Fleet Strategy to evaluate and incorporate fully electric, electric hybrid, and other low carbon vehicle technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” they said.

McLean clarified that he believes “electric vehicles have advantages,” however, that did not dissuade his concern over the cost of the pilot, nor their “poor performance in cold weather.”

“Our natural gas buses are clean, efficient and cost-effective,” he said. “So, I’m not sure why the rush to change.”

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