City of Edmonton’s electric bus fleet plagued by problems, more than half not in service – Edmonton

The City of Edmonton deployed a fleet of electric buses to the Edmonton Transit Service in 2020, seeking greener solutions when the last fleet was aging.

However, these buses are experiencing problems and more than half are already out of service. Three years later, things haven’t been easy.

“They immediately became a problem for our operators,” said Steve Bradshaw, president of ATU 569.

The transportation union said it faced numerous mechanical problems, battery issues and missing parts. Many drivers couldn’t even get behind the wheel.

“The layout of the cabin is such that it’s suitable for average-sized people, but if you’re short or tall, it’s not suitable for you at all,” Bradshaw said.

“It’s very difficult to drive.”

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Many drivers have reportedly requested that electric bus hours be cut and have filed complaints with the Workers’ Compensation Board, the union said.

Electric vehicles make up only a small percentage of the city’s 1,000 bus fleet, but more than half don’t run.

The city paid more than $1 million for each bus and ordered 60 of them from U.S. manufacturing company Proterra, which built, packaged and painted them in South Carolina.

The city council began exploring the idea of ​​electric buses when trolleybuses were being phased out years ago.

The buses run on long-range batteries, powered by electricity from overhead charging stations located in the garage when not in use. Edmonton was one of the first cities in North America to have this type of charging technology.

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“You’ve put a lot of money into these buses, which are supposed to improve people’s quality of life and the majority of them are not on the street,” said Councilman Andrew Knack.

He is frustrated with the process.

“It’s a huge cost that we’ve invested and it’s not producing what everyone expected when we first bought these buses.”

But getting the buses back on the road won’t be easy — Proterra has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, meaning ETS won’t be able to access new parts to repair the fleet.

“Now their parts warehouse is closed and we can’t supply them with new parts. It’s kind of a simple situation there, we can’t do anything with it,” Bradshaw said.

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Knack said this raised many questions about what’s next.

“Is there any way, no matter what happens, that we can then…someone recoup the contract or whatever happens to try to recoup the cost?” Knack said.

“At the end of the day, this is a contract and many cities have purchased electric buses from this group. I think all we want is what everyone else wants – (which) is what we paid for.

The transport union said electric buses would follow modified timetables until the problems are resolved, while other diesel buses can run all day. Bradshaw said next time the union hopes to be consulted first.

“If you had those bus drivers sitting in that seat. They would have told them right then and there, before even putting a nickel on them, “No, I can’t drive this thing, are you kidding me?” »

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The city is already considering other green options: a hydrogen bus pilot project launched in 2022.

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