GRT unveils first electric bus Aims to replace entire fleet with electric vehicles by 2026

Alicia Wang

Yesterday, Grand River Transit (GRT) unveiled its first all-electric bus at the newly built 305,000 sq. ft. Northfield Drive Maintenance Facility. The electric bus is the first of 11 that will be rolled out over the course of the next few months.

The unveiling event featured several speakers including Kitchener South-Hespeler MPP Jess Dixon,  regional chair of the Waterloo Region Karen Redman, and director of transit services for GRT Doug Spooner. 

“It’s exciting as we add more vehicles, more operators and more hours of service to meet the growing demand for transit,” Spooner said. He explained that after a week of road testing, the new bus will begin operating on routes six and 21. 

Data on how the electric buses perform on their routes will also be collected to inform how GRT incorporates the electric buses. 

Currently, GRT utilizes a combination of diesel and hybrid vehicles, though they stopped purchasing diesel vehicles in 2021. The hybrid vehicles produce lower emissions than diesel vehicles by combining a diesel engine with battery-electric propulsion. As the electric buses run solely on battery-electric propulsion, they will need to be charged which takes about four hours and will typically be done overnight at the garage, though some systems allow for charging on the go. 

Spooner thanked the regional council and the provincial and federal governments for their support, as funding for the buses has been split between Infrastructure Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and the Region of Waterloo. He also thanked GRT staff for their consistent efforts. 

“When other people stay in, we go out,” he said. “And it’s really rewarding when we get days like this to recognize the efforts of our team.”

Spooner explained that the order for the buses was put in two years ago, after which GRT worked with the manufacturer to ensure the buses met GRT specifications. The buses are Nova Bus LFSe+, which don’t emit greenhouse gas emissions and are “designed to meet the sustainability needs of transit authorities”.

Though he could not provide a specific answer explaining the delay of the electric buses from the initial plan of launching in spring 2023, “I would guess that it was just supply chain and manufacturing [issues].” 

Waterloo MPP Bardish Chagger lauded the student engagement involved in the improvements. “They’ve been showing up and that’s where we know that there’s challenges between peak hours. And so we want to make sure that we’re part of the solution.” 

Andres Valencia, a fourth-year UW planning student at the event, said he welcomed the additions, but that there was still work to be done. “​​As a planner, I think that [investments into electric mobility are] important … and that is something that we got to keep pushing.”