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OC Transpo’s e-bus program gets go-ahead on spending

The vote came after the proposal underwent additional scrutiny last week. OC Transpo Managing Director Renée Amilcar assured councilors that the tested e-buses exceeded expectations

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Ottawa City Councilors gave OC Transpo the green light to move forward with a zero-emissions bus program this week, voting 17-6 during Wednesday’s budget session to approve spending $425 million to begin the transition from a diesel fleet to electric buses .

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The e-bus project has a total cost of US$1 billion and would add 350 electric buses to the fleet over the next three years.

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The vote came after the proposal received additional scrutiny from the city’s Transit Commission last week.

But Barrhaven East Coun. Wilson Lo worries the city is developing too fast, too soon. Lo was one of six council members who voted against the package. The first-term councilman is a former OC Transpo bus driver who has even driven one of the four electric buses the city has tested over the past year.

He said it’s a wonderful vehicle but fears a winter test will not be enough to ensure the bus batteries will last as promised.

“It’s the ‘e’ part of the e-bus that I would like to get more comprehensive data on before we make this huge investment,” Lo said Thursday.

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“I just don’t think that one winter and one year of testing is enough to get a good sense of how these buses will perform over the next few years under harsh winter operating conditions with the air conditioning on in the summer, deteriorating with the regular fluctuations in the.” number of drivers.”

The Toronto Transit Commission has been testing 60 electric buses for nearly four years and still hasn’t made a decision, Lo said.

“They don’t yet have the confidence to fully buy this technology. We had an opportunity to get this right, to get this right, and we missed it,” Lo said, adding that he hopes he’s wrong as the project progresses.

Most of the $425 million to be spent on charging stations and infrastructure will come from a $350 million infrastructure grant. The council also approved a $75 million loan from Canada Infrastructure Bank.

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The city will also divert $55 million from its existing diesel bus replacement program to purchase zero-emission buses.

Renée Amilcar, General Manager of OC Transpo, responded to questions and assured councilors that the four electric buses currently being tested have exceeded expectations, covering more than 200,000 km between them.

Capital Ward Coun. Shawn Menard also expressed support for the program.

“It aligns with our city plans and long-term goals,” Menard said. “I don’t think we’ve had a better vetted, risk-managed bus purchase in the history of this city.”

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