Electric buses and trucks a big (rig) opportunity for Canadian innovators

Photo by: Transport Executive

Today the federal government announced new regulations for heavy- and medium-duty vehicles, including school buses, transport tractors and trailers, garbage trucks, delivery vans, and larger pickup trucks.

These new regulations will align Canada’s emissions standards with those of the U.S. and are expected to significantly reduce pollution: by approximately six-million tonnes a year by 2030, comparable to taking 1.5-million passenger vehicles off the road for one year.

The new regulations limit the lifespan of heavy- and medium-duty trucks in Canada, which means that older, more polluting vehicles will be taken off the road sooner, replaced with more efficient models. Not only will these regulations help reduce the pollution that comes from transportation in Canada, there will be cost savings of approximately $1.7 billion in fuel annually (by 2030) as more efficient vehicle options come onto the market.

Regulations such as these help feed growing demand around the world for trucks and buses that pollute less, creating a whole new class of cleaner, better vehicles.

Let’s look at some of the top zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles on the market today. Spoiler alert: some of these are manufactured by Canadian companies.

1) The big yellow electric school bus

Created by Canadian company Lion Bus, the eLion is an all-electric school bus with customizable range depending on route distance, charging availability, and desired price. This means that schools and school districts can tailor the bus (and price) to fit the needs of their normal daily routes.

Lion Bus is building the only electric “conventional” school bus (also known as Type C, for all you transit keeners) in North America, and places like California have taken notice.

Working with First Priority GreenFleet, Lion Bus has completed the largest all-electric school bus deployment in North America made by a single original equipment manufacturer. They delivered 40 electric school buses to at least a dozen districts in California over the past year; the state now has more than 150 electric school buses. Because of this growing demand, Lion Bus recently built a manufacturing facility in California.

2) Breaker breaker one nine

The race to electrify the big rig is on with Tesla, Volvo, Volkswagen, and now Daimler unveiling battery-powered haulers.

Based in Germany, Daimler recently revealed the eCascadia, a highway hauler that can go as far as 400 kilometers between charges. They also released a smaller version with a range of about 370 kilometers, marketed for local deliveries.

Unsurprisingly, the Telsa Semi received a lot of attention last year when it got orders from grocery and retail giants, including Loblaw and Walmart here in Canada.

Loblaw’s purchase of the Telsa Semi is part of a broader commitment to a fully electric fleet to help reduce the company’s carbon footprint by 2030. Just how big is that commitment? About 350 zero-emission vehicles and 2,500 trailers big.

The Ontario-based grocer said removing diesel from its transport trucks and refrigerated trailers could reduce more than 94,000 tonnes of carbon pollution a year, equal to taking at least 20,000 cars off the road.

Able to travel 800 kilometres with an 80,000-pound load, the Tesla Semi big rigs are sure to make big waves when they’re delivered next year.

3) Public transit goes electric

Earlier this year, Metro Vancouver transit authority TransLink announced it was bringing four new electric buses to Metro Vancouver in 2019.  

The prototype buses can be recharged in five minutes and have a range of just over 200 kilometers on a full charge. The charging system is supplied by two Canadian manufacturers, Nova Bus, based in Quebec, and New Flyer, based in Ontario.

BC Transit is also piloting an electric bus in the province’s capital of Victoria. The six-month trial began back in January 2018 and features a 40-foot, 72-passenger bus built by Chinese manufacturer BYD (which stands for: Build Your Dreams).

And finally, with all this talk of zero-emission buses, it would be remiss to not mention B.C. cleantech leader Ballard, maker of zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell buses. They’ve deployed their buses in markets all over the world, including England, Scotland, California, and Pennsylvania.

With heavy-duty vehicles responsible for 9% of carbon pollution in Canada, these new regulations are not only an opportunity to eliminate emissions—they’re an opportunity to drive innovation and create jobs in transportation. And let’s be blunt: they’re really cool.

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