Staff Report #4 Electric Bus Assessment

Staff Report #4

January 29, 2020

To All Commissioners

Re: Electric Bus Assessment


That the Commission:

  1. APPROVE the award of a contract with the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC), to undertake a Feasibility Analysis & Simulations-Based Planning Study of the current route structure as it relates to options for proceeding with the introduction of electric bus technology into the fleet, at an estimated cost of $83,000 exclusive of applicable taxes; and
  2. DIRECT administration to report back on the results of the study and recommended next steps at a future meeting.


At the November 27, 2019 meeting, the Commission directed staff to bring back a report outlining the next steps that would be involved with respect to a study of the impacts associated with the electrification of the LTC bus fleet. The following report provides an overview of the state of readiness of the transit industry with respect to the deployment of electric buses into transit fleets as well as an action plan specific to London Transit.

Transit Industry – State of Readiness

While there have been limited pilot programs with specific vendors utilizing proprietary charging infrastructure over the past 18 months, however many transit systems expressed concern with investing in charging infrastructure that was limited to one vendor, essentially limiting opportunities for competitive bids going forward for electric bus procurement. The Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC) launched phase I of the Pan-Canadian Electric Bus Demonstration and Integration Trial (Trial) in 2019. The Trial is deploying electric buses and overhead chargers, standardized to the OppCharge Protocol, across three municipal jurisdictions in Canada. The deployment is preceded by predictive modelling using CUTRIC’s Rout∑.iTM modelling tool and will be followed by data collection and analytics from the data loggers on-board the vehicles and chargers.

The multi-stakeholder project is being governed by a Project Steering Committee through a consultative process and has, collectively, been able to generate important guidance documents to assist public fleets including transit agencies and utility/local distribution companies to overcome the barriers of uncertainty and high risk associated with the adoption of electrified propulsion technologies. Eighteen standardized electric buses and seven standardized overhead chargers will be deployed across Vancouver, Brampton and York Region as part of this trial. Four Universities are also involved in carrying out research and development (R&D) activities across various aspects of electromobility-ranging from electric powertrain, cybersecurity, energy storage and data visualization. In addition, the Toronto Transit Commission is also undertaking a pilot project with electric buses.

Phase II of the Trial will deploy standardized electric buses and smart-enabled 450 kW+ overhead charging systems standardized to SAE J3105 and in-depot chargers standardized to SAE J1772. The deployment will be followed by data collection and analytics from the data loggers on-board the vehicles and chargers. Phase II will also explore innovative business models including financing and Innovation P3© (Public-Private-Partnership) frameworks to develop a template for transit agencies to involve OEMs, data integrators, and infrastructure developers in their transition to electrification. Phase II will expand on the footprint of Phase I by integrating more transit systems and utility partners across Canada into the project.

Given that three of the four aforementioned pilot projects are occurring in climates that are consistent with that in London, and buses will operate in varying conditions (topography, passenger load, etc.), the data and experience gathered by the participating transit systems will be critical input into decisions with respect to the roll-out of similar technology in London.

CUTRIC also has a Phase III of the Trial which will look for additional transit systems to participate in effort to gather more experience and data as an industry. As this Trial continues to move forward, additional data and experience will be gathered which will provide the required inputs transit systems will require as they plan for the transition to electric bus in their respective fleets.

Additionally, both the Ontario Public Transit Association (OPTA) and the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) as well as CUTRIC, continue to offer sessions at conferences, and in CUTRIC’s case, specific conferences on zero-emission transit options which administration will continue to attend as resources allow.

London Transit Action Plan

Public transit services are relied upon by customers to deliver services as scheduled on a reliable basis. As such, when a transit provider considers a transition of this nature, a pilot program is considered essential. A pilot program provides the opportunity to determine how the new vehicle will perform in actual service versus relying on data from the vendor which may have been influenced by factors including weather, passenger load, area topography, etc. Prior to determining the manner in which the pilot program will be undertaken, a system assessment needs to be undertaken in an effort to identify the best path forward for the pilot.

The following diagram depicts the aspects that require detailed assessment prior to moving forward with the actual procurement of electric buses, with detailed commentary on each aspect following.

Operational Assessment

The first step in the roadmap is the completion of an operational assessment. This assessment includes a detailed look at a specific route(s) that may be considered for transition to electric vehicles in the case of a pilot program, or the entire transit network in the event the study is to provide required details with respect to the number of electric buses that will be required in order to provide the same level of service that is currently provided. Considerations in this assessment include, but are not limited to, the distance and topography of the route(s), the duty cycles of the routes selected (light/medium/heavy) including passenger loads and stop frequency, the downtime available for charging (whether wayside or in depot this factor will play a role in determining the number of electric buses required to provide the same level of service). The ultimate number of buses and related charging infrastructure decisions will feed into the assessments of some of the next steps in the overall study.

As set out in the report recommendation, administration is recommending that the Commission approve proceeding with utilizing CUTRIC to undertake a Feasibility Analysis & Simulation-Based Planning Study at an estimated cost of $83,000 exclusive of applicable taxes. The costs associated with this study were not included in the multi-year operating budget as approved by the Commission and as such, administration will look to realign projects within the final approved budget as part of the budget recosting exercise in order to ensure this project is funded. CUTRIC has indicated they could begin the Study at the beginning of March 2020, with expectations of completion and final reporting done by the end of July 2020.

Subsequent to the completion of the final report, administration will report back to the Commission with results, as well as a proposed path forward that will include the identification of a preferred approach to a pilot program as well as the associated costs of same.

Market Analysis

A market assessment of both the vehicles and charging infrastructure is a key piece of the overall assessment. There are currently four manufacturers who supply electric buses in the North American market, all of whom originally utilized proprietary charging protocols. This was viewed as a significant issue in the market place given the required charging infrastructure, whether wayside or depot, would only work with a specific manufacturer’s bus. This arrangement would have led to transit providers being required to continue to purchase their buses from one specific vendor. As indicated earlier in this report, the Trial has provided for the participating bus manufacturers to commit to a standardized charging protocol, which, pending the results of the Trial, will mitigate the issue of proprietary charging going forward.

While any specific pricing for new electric buses would be subject to a request for proposal process, the current pricing for an electric bus is approximately 185% of the same size clean diesel bus.

The Trial’s requirements for standardized charging protocols will ensure that multiple vendors will have the opportunity to develop products in response to market demand. This in turn should ensure the opportunity for competitive bidding versus reliance on a sole source. The approximate costs associated with each of the charging options based on the current market are set out below.

  • In-Depot Chargers (100-150 kWh power):
    • 2:1 (bus:charger) ratio, approximately 5hrs to take a full charge
    • Approximately $130,000 per unit excluding taxes
  • Opportunity Chargers (450-600 kWh power):
    • 10:1 (bus:charger) on-street and up to 30:1 for in-depot charging (allowing +/- 10mins/bus). Charge time will run between 4-7mins (450kWh chargers) and 2-5mins (600kWh chargers) subject to state-of-charge when the bus begins charging
    • Approximately $1.5 million per unit excluding taxes

Energy Requirements

When the operational assessment has been completed, and items such as the total kilometres driven on each route, the number of routes to be transitioned, the impacts associated with weather conditions and passenger loads have been determined, the amount of energy that will be consumed by the vehicle can be calculated. This analysis on a route by route basis is required given each route will vary, and it is imperative to understand the energy requirements in order to ensure that each route is equipped with the appropriate number of buses to provide the same level of service as that currently being provided.

It is at this phase of the overall assessment where consideration can also be given to whether a route should utilize overhead high-powered (on-route) opportunity charging technology or in-depot (plug-in) charging. A number of factors in addition to the route profile can play a role in this decision including but not limited to the availability of land and associated power for on-route opportunity charging at the locations it would be required and the distance from the route to the depot and impacts on the battery associated with this travel.

Charging Requirements/Options

Following the assessment of overall energy requirements, the next step in the overall study is to determine the charging needs. As indicated earlier in this report, the data gathered from the Trial will be critical input into this assessment given the conditions that are being piloted are similar in nature to London Transit conditions. Another important piece in this assessment is the amount of downtime that is available for a bus to be recharged prior to it going back into service. This determination, coupled with the energy requirements for a bus to complete a specific route, will determine the rate at which the bus must be able to be fully recharged in order to make service when being charged at the depot, or the rate and interval that a bus must be charged while on-route with wayside charging. It is very likely that a transit system the size of London’s would not be able to utilize on-route opportunity charging for all routes, and as such, a proposition of in-depot charging would likely also be necessary once the entire fleet was converted. The assessment will also indicate any routes that may not be suitable for battery-electric buses (either in-depot or opportunity charging), which may require consideration of other zero-emission technology options (i.e. hydrogen fuel cell electric buses) should full electrification be ultimately desired.

Technology relating to the various charging options, and the rates at which charging can occur is rapidly changing and adapting to market needs. As such, modelling will have to be done on technology that is available at the time, with the caveat that technology will progress going forward. The rapid pace of change in this area supports the phased implementation of an electric fleet, which is planned based on known and quantifiable data at the time. This approach will provide for a smoother and more successful transition, which will in turn be less disruptive to the service.

Another consideration with respect to charging options is whether depot charging will occur at one facility, or if it will be spread across multiple, smaller facilities. In London’s case, the LTC fleet currently operates out of two facilities, with no plans to expand beyond the two going forward. These plans could be impacted once the costs associated with the facility upgrades required to accommodate charging electric vehicles is known. Given harsh winter conditions, it will be imperative that any overnight in-depot charging take place indoors within a heated bus storage facility.

Utility Interconnection

Once the load and charging technology at each phase of implementation for electric vehicles is planned, discussions can be held with the local electric utility with respect to power requirements, either at the facility location (depot charging) or roadside location (wayside charging). The local utility will need to assess the grid capacity of the facility (or roadside location) in light of both current and predicted future needs. The utility will also need to assess any costs involved with ensuring the required demands for energy at each location, and whether the demands coincide with peak operations. Buses are generally serviced overnight, so the majority of charging would also likely occur during the hours of 1am-5am. There is the potential, depending on the length of route and capacity of vehicle, that mid-day charging may be required for some of the fleet, which has the potential to be in conflict with peak energy requirements of the utility. The incremental costs associated with peak period charging would be weighed against the cost of acquiring additional buses which would allow for off-peak charging, all of which would need to be considered in the financial analysis.

Facility Needs

Once charging infrastructure is selected and the phasing of electric bus implementation is known, the related equipment footprints and vehicle flow at each facility can be assessed and retrofit/expansion requirements can be determined. Additionally, the assessment will include any requirements relating to required utility upgrades at the facility can be undertaken. Important in this assessment is the fact that conversion to a fully electric fleet will take place over time, and as such, any required expansion may be phased to coincide with the implementation plan.

Given the current state of the Highbury facility, and the plans to demolish and rebuild, any initial retrofit relating to charging infrastructure requirements for electric buses should be undertaken at the Wonderland facility. This will have an impact on the selection of a route(s) for the pilot, noting the buses that operate out of that facility only service specific routes. Any rebuilding of the Highbury facility would incorporate the requirements for charging infrastructure and related utility work.

On-Site Power

When converting a fleet to electric vehicles, consideration needs to be given to how service will be provided in the event of a grid outage. The extent of the impact of an outage will be dependent upon the manner in which the fleet is charged (split between in-depot and opportunity) as well as the locations of the various garages, but when making contingency plans for outages, the assumption needs to be the outage would impact the entire service area.

This issue will become more significant as the size of the electric fleet grows, however consideration of future and ultimate requirements needs to be included as part of the overall financial analysis. Should the costs associated with the provision of backup power for the entire fleet be considered too high, a plan will need to be prepared that will outline which routes are considered priority and a backup power solution will be required for the number of buses needed to serve priority routes.

Transitioning into full fleet electrification, an assessment will need to be completed regarding power capacity to the transit facility and any on-route charging locations will also need to be completed to ensure sufficient power delivery. It can be expected, especially in the case of the two transit facilities, that additional power to the site will be required by installing dedicated electric sub-stations to service the fleet electrification demand.

Internal and External Resource Requirements

The rate of adoption of electric buses across the Province and the Country will play a role in each system’s ability to hire new and/or train existing employees as well as secure external expertise, all while continuing to maintain the existing diesel fleet.

External Resources

In addition to the potential utilization of CUTRIC to conduct a route/system assessment with respect to the feasibility and requirements associated with moving to an electric fleet, additional external resources will be required given the relative inexperience of internal resources with respect to this new technology.  Consulting service requirements will include, but not be limited to electrical engineering expertise, project management/oversight, facility design engineering, contract administration, inspections, etc.

Internal Resources

A project of this magnitude will require an internal resource(s) dedicated to the overall project management and oversight of the pilot project as well as the eventual larger transition. Additionally, the requirements for employees that are trained and qualified to maintain and repair two types of bus may result in increased staffing requirements for the foreseeable future. Resources from the Planning department will be also required during the operational assessment noting route specifics including distance, frequency, recovery time, topography, number of stops, and ridership levels will all be required as key inputs into the assessment.

Electric buses and charging infrastructure will need to be maintained and repaired, and staff will need to be trained accordingly. Transit systems in Canada that are the first to adopt this new technology may have difficulty finding technicians that are trained and qualified to maintain and repair the electric bus fleet until such time as curriculums in the post-secondary system have been adjusted to include this type of training and students have had the opportunity to graduate. Plant engineers will need to be trained to maintain and repair the charging infrastructure.

Consideration will also need to be given to ensuring that trainers are equipped to be able to train bus Operators to drive electric vehicles. Given the manner in which work is assigned to drivers, once electric buses are introduced into the fleet, all drivers will need to be trained, noting they could be required to drive the electric bus on any given day. A training program of this nature will also result in the need for increased manpower noting service has to continue to be provided at existing service levels while drivers are being trained.

The anticipated additional resource requirements associated with a project of this magnitude were not considered nor incorporated into the Commission’s multi-year operating budget, and given the extent of same, opportunities to realign the budget to accommodate this do not exist. Ultimately, a source of funding will need to be identified and secured in order for this project to commence.

Financial Analysis

The final step in the overall assessment is to summarize all of the information gathered in previous steps, and conduct a thorough financial analysis, including multi-year capital and operating budget impacts, business case, and appropriate funding model. While the environmental benefits of moving to a greener fleet may be the impetus for the move, the costs associated need to be well defined and understood by all stakeholders. Additionally, appropriate funding needs to be established to ensure the project can continue through completion. The introduction of a pilot program with a small number of buses which is not carried through with a fleet conversion results in an “orphan fleet” of buses that will require trained employees to maintain and repair through their useful life (generally 12 years) at which time the charging infrastructure will no longer be required and costs associated with same will be sunk.

Key inputs into the financial analysis will be the rate at which the transition to electric vehicles will take place as well as the selected charging option(s) and supporting infrastructure that will be required. While the Federal Government has indicated an interest in funding green technologies as a priority, it is expected that any funding approvals for transit projects relating to the adoption of these technologies will be subject to a feasibility study being completed. The system assessment recommended in this report is the first step that would be required in order to complete the feasibility study.

Procurement Strategy

The strategy for procurement will need to be well defined both for the bus fleet as well as the charging infrastructure. As previously stated, there are currently four bus manufacturers that are supplying electric buses in the North American market. Procurement of buses for a pilot program may be undertaken as part of a larger study group, however ultimate bus procurement to replace the fleet would in all likelihood utilize the standard bus tender approach.

Once decisions with respect to charging options have been made, discussions can be held with 3rd parties regarding cost sharing and/or sponsorship of some or all of the costs associated with the charging infrastructure. All of these details will need to be clearly defined as part of any request for funding from senior levels of government.

Implementation Phasing

Implementation phasing for the transition of the entire fleet will be highly dependent upon the results of the pilot project and resulting decisions with respect to the rate of conversion and charging options to be implemented.

As indicated earlier, a complicating factor with respect to London Transit is the planned demolition and rebuild of the Highbury facility in the near term should a source of funding be identified. As such, the implementation phasing would need to exclude any infrastructure work at the Highbury facility until such time as it is being rebuilt. The Wonderland facility can house up to 100 buses, which provides some flexibility in transition in the short term, noting that buses being deployed from that facility may be subject to increased deadhead depending on the route they are serving.

Recommended by:

Craig Morneau, Director of Fleet & Facilities

Mike Gregor, Director of Finance

Concurred in by:

Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager