Electric Buses in Winnipeg – The 2000s

In early 2011 a prototype electric bus project was launched to run a single electric bus in Winnipeg. The project was financed by the province, Manitoba Hydro and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI). At the time, MHI was in the business of manufacturing lithium-ion batteries but exited that business in 2014. The study was conducted in partnership with Red River College. Read the final report here.

In 2014 Winnipeg Transit partnered with New Flyer to demonstrate battery-electric buses in operation. They used up to four Xcelsior buses on route 20 (Academy-Watt), a 40 km, two hour route between the James Richardson airport through downtown to East Kildonan and back.

A high power charging station was installed at the airport in late 2014 to recharge the buses. The buses recharged by parking under the station, then a pantograph is raised from the bus to make the connection with the station. It took about 10 minutes to recharge the bus.

Financial support was provided by NSERC. Red River College was another partner, and they produced the video above.

The project ended in 2017. Winnipeg Transit stated that these were “first generation” vehicles that are now outdated.

More information on the project is available here: Winnipeg Transit project description

Hybrids

In late 2007 Winnipeg Transit received an articulated hybrid electric bus for a five month trial. This diesel-electric hybrid bus was built by New Flyer and was 60′ long and featured air conditioning. The trial was funded by the federal government through the Gas Tax Agreement.

The trial was apparently unsuccessful and the planned purchase of 20 hybrid buses did not occur. Winnipeg Transit does use articulated buses in regular service, however. 20 of these (used) diesel-powered “bendy buses” were acquired in 2013.

Next Steps for Winnipeg

In early 2019 city council voted to consider a detailed test of 12-20 buses to include in the budget. This is a “baby step” toward electric buses and at least one columnist wasn’t happy.

Other Cities

Meanwhile, New Flyer’s electric buses are in production or being tested in a variety of Canadian and American cities. This article claims they have 1,600 zero-emission buses on the road, with another 5,700 electric buses (powered by trolley wire or fuel-cell based electricity) in service.

Seattle

King County Metro, the transit authority for the Seattle WA area, announced that it has purchased 40 Xcelsior battery-powered buses from New Flyer at the end of January 2020. These buses have a list price of $1.3 million each, to be delivered in 2021. King County has an option for 80 more buses to be delivered in 2022.

STM / STL

40 Xcelsior CHARGE™ all-electric buses have been ordered by the Société de transport de Montréal (“STM”) and the Société de transport de Laval (“STL”) for the Montreal area. STM received its first (pilot) bus in November 2019 to perform trials on it over the winter and spring, prior to receiving the remainder of its order starting in June 2020.

Vancouver, Brampton, and York

Vancouver, Brampton and York are all participating in a trial of electric buses from New Flyer and Nova Bus as part of the $11.5 million Pan-Canadian Electric Bus Demonstration and Integration Trial.

4 thoughts on “Electric Buses in Winnipeg – The 2000s”

  1. It’s sad to think at one time Winnipeg had over 120 miles of streetcar rail and trolleybus lines all running on electricity. Then by the mid 50’s all lines where torn down and rail removed, or some cases paved over, and the reign of the gas and diesel bus commenced. Now it seems were coming around full circle with the talk of electric buses on the streets once again.

    Reply
    • Yes, we are coming full circle back to electric buses. Even battery powered buses aren’t new – but the batteries are much better than they used to be. I’m excited by the possibilities of hybrid caternary / battery buses that can run under wire and then take branch lines using a battery that is recharged when they return to the wire. I think this brings a lot of flexibility and extends electric bus usage to places that otherwise couldn’t support them.

      Reply
  2. Catenary is probably a non-starter in Winnipeg. Adding infrastructure is a hard sell but as you say, battery/catenary is a great range extender as you can recharge on the fly. Do we know the ‘MSRP’ of the diesel and battery Xcelsiors? I expect the battery ones are more expensive and that’s a built-in excuse around here. Didn’t Wpg Transit test some diesel-electric hybrids?

    Reply
    • I agree that catenary is probably a non starter. It’s a lot of infrastructure and it would be hard to justify, especially with today’s improved battery technology.

      According to this page, the electric buses from New Flyer are about twice the cost of an equivalent diesel bus. I imagine the running cost of an electric bus is less – less mechanical parts, hopefully electricity is a cheaper “fuel” than diesel in Manitoba – but the battery life is definitely a question mark.
      https://manitobaenergycouncil.ca/information/supporting-the-city-of-winnipeg-in-the-purchase-of-electric-buses

      There was a hybrid trial starting in 2007. Wikipedia says it was unsuccessful and the pilot bus was returned. I will update my post – thanks!

      Reply

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