City of Vancouver considering electric charging stations for tour buses

Jan 14 2021, 4:10 pm

Aligning with its climate action strategy, the City of Vancouver is seeking an interested party to establish and operate an electric-battery tour bus charging site near Granville Island.

The municipal government has issued a request for proposals (RFP), which identifies a small parking lot at 1500 West 2nd Avenue as the location for this charging infrastructure. It is at the southwest corner of the intersection of Anderson Street and West 2nd Avenue, right next to the Starbucks and under the Granville Street Bridge’s Fir Street off-ramp.

According to the RFP, this prominent location at the entrance to Granville Island — already a major hub for tour bus operators — is to be a showcase for electrical mobility.

It is estimated this site will be large enough to accommodate overnight parking and electric bus charging for at least four buses.

gray line westcoast sightseeing electric-battery bus byd c9

The location of the electric-battery tour bus charging site at 1500 West 2nd Avenue, Vancouver. (City of Vancouver/Google Maps)

gray line westcoast sightseeing electric-battery bus byd c9

The location of the electric-battery tour bus charging site at 1500 West 2nd Avenue, Vancouver. (City of Vancouver/Google Maps)

The RFP notes there should be on-site public access so that passengers can load and unload from the buses. Furthermore, the design of the site will be such that electric tour bus operations will be showcased and visible to the public, and this could include upgrades such as site beautification and other ways that promote electric vehicles.

The municipal government is also interested in the possibility of complimentary electric mobility uses, such as space on the site for e-bikes or electric carshare.

The selected operator will be responsible for all costs of the installation, maintenance, and operations of the charging infrastructure, and any other installations related to operations and improving the showcase location. This includes covering the estimated $50,000 to $100,000 cost of working with BC Hydro to provide the site with power needs, and once installed, the municipal government will own this privately funded electrical infrastructure.

Additionally, the operator will reimburse the municipal government for the cost of electricity used by the charging stations. The entire project is subject to city council’s approval.

The operator of this site is required to be one of the city’s private tour bus companies: “The vendor must be a provider of regular publicly accessible routes operating in the region, with passenger stops in Vancouver.”

Gray Line Westcoast Sightseeing would appear to fit this requirement. In 2018, it announced it had ordered over 80 electric-battery buses, with the goal of converting its entire fleet into one of the largest private fleets of electric-battery buses in Canada.

gray line westcoast sightseeing electric-battery bus byd c9

The BYD C-9 electric-battery bus model used by Gray Line Westcoast Sightseeing. (Westcoast Sightseeing)

The C-9 bus model ordered by Westcoast Sightseeing is manufactured by China’s BYD, and it features 49 leather passenger seats, USB ports at each seat, air-conditioned windows, ample legroom, and custom audio to help guests hear their guide.

These 45-ft-long, zero-emission buses use clean iron-phosphate battery technology, providing a range of over 300 km on a single charge, with a full recharge within four hours.

The buses are intended to be used for itineraries within Vancouver, southwestern BC, and travel to Whistler, Victoria, the North Shore. This includes the daily Hop-On and Hop-Off tours in Vancouver and Victoria.

Prior to COVID-19, Westcoast Sightseeing’s aim was to retire all older buses and exclusively use electric-battery buses from the new order by 2023. The first buses from the order went into operation in Summer 2019.

The fulfillment of this transition necessitates extensive charging infrastructure for the company at key locations.

gray line westcoast sightseeing electric-battery bus byd c9

The BYD C-9 electric-battery bus model used by Gray Line Westcoast Sightseeing. (Westcoast Sightseeing)

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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