TransLink planning to add over 460 battery-electric buses by 2030

Dec 1 2022, 8:59 pm

Battery-electric buses are the future for TransLink’s bus fleet, and the longstanding practice of acquiring new diesel-powered buses is now a thing of the past.

TransLink’s new Climate Action Plan (CAP) released today provides a blueprint for how Metro Vancouver’s public transit system will incrementally reduce its emissions over the coming decade toward achieving the overarching goal of reaching net zero by 2050.

It reaffirms and overlaps with the public transit authority’s Climate Action Strategy approved by the Mayors’ Council in early 2022 and the Low Carbon Fleet Strategy created in early 2020, which will be replaced by a new Zero-Emissions Fleet Transition Plan in 2023 and supplemented by a future Net Zero Facilities Strategy.

“While only one per cent of greenhouse gas emissions comes from public transit, we know it’s important to do our part to combat climate change,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn. in a statement. “Our aim is to reduce our emissions to zero, while also reducing the number of cars on the road.”

By 2030, under the new CAP, 34% of the existing diesel bus fleet will be replaced with 462 battery-electric buses, including 15 additional buses to fully electrify Route 100 by 2024, adding to the existing four buses. The first of this order of 15 new buses arrived in Metro Vancouver in November 2022.

The battery-electric bus fleet will grow to 155 vehicles by 2025 when the Port Coquitlam Transit Centre bus depot is upgraded and five in-route charging locations are added.

The construction of the new Marpole Transit Centre bus depot on a Fraser River industrial site in Vancouver, immediately west of the Canada Line bridge, will serve 350 additional battery-electric buses.

Prior to the pandemic, TransLink had a goal of reaching a battery-electric bus fleet of 635 vehicles by 2030.

translink electric battery bus nova bus 100

A Nova Bus battery-electric bus used by TransLink charging at the Marpole bus loop. (TransLink)

As an interim step towards reducing emissions, TransLink will also be acquiring 84 additional compressed natural gas (CNG) buses in 2024, which will be fuelled by renewable natural gas. This will bring the CNG fleet to a total of 383 buses.

While not zero-emission, CNG buses produce considerably lower emissions than acquiring new replacement diesel buses. TransLink previously suggested some new CNG buses are needed to replace a portion of the aging diesel buses due to the higher cost of acquiring battery-electric buses and the associated supporting maintenance and charging infrastructure.

In addition to the construction of the Marpole bus depot and the upgrade of the Port Coquitlam bus depot, TransLink also needs to renovate existing bus depots in Richmond and Burnaby to store and charge battery-electric buses.

Existing diesel buses will only be retired after they reach the end of their lifespan, which is generally between 15 and 20 years. For that reason, the public transit authority will conduct a pilot project of testing renewable diesel in 2023/2024. By 2040, zero emissions will be achieved in all bus operations when all diesel and CNG buses are retired and replaced with battery-electric buses.

With this shift towards battery-electric buses and one final batch of CNG buses, TransLink will see a reduction of at least 37% in its total emissions by 2030 — achieving much of its goal of an interim target of a 45% reduction by the end of this decade.

translink electric battery bus

TransLink battery-electric bus. (TransLink)

The acquisition of battery-electric buses and the associated infrastructure upgrades to support electrification are partially funded by the provincial government’s $2.4 billion commitment to TransLink, announced in May 2022. The federal government is also expected to provide significant funding.

TransLink also has the ability to tap into federal gas tax revenues for battery-electric buses, with $154 million in revenues set aside for 57 vehicles in 2021.

“We know people in Metro Vancouver want and need reliable, affordable and sustainable transportation throughout the region,” said BC Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy and Minister Responsible for TransLink George Heyman.

“Our government is committed to expanding and accelerating the development of public transit, shifting away from fossil fuels, and building healthy, accessible communities for everyone.”

In addition to battery-electric buses, TransLink also has plans to replace all 260 existing trolley buses with new replacement trolleys in the late 2020s. These trolleys went into service in the 2000s, and are now approaching the end of their lifespan. This also takes advantage of the extensive infrastructure already in place to support the trolleys, which are also zero-emission.

Earlier this year, TransLink completed a feasibility study on installing charging infrastructure for next-generation, battery-electric SeaBus vessels.

Other components of the CAP entail optimizing operations and improving infrastructure to make the public transit system more resilient to extreme weather events, including wind storms, heavy snowfall, and flooding.

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