Monday, March 2, 2020

TransLink’s Low Carbon Fleet: More battery-electric buses coming soon

On Thursday, I represented Langley City at the TransLink Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation meeting as Mayor van den Broek was unavailable. While the agenda was short, there was an important decision made that will set TransLink on the path of electrification of their bus fleet.

The Mayors’ Council has mandated that TransLink reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) 80% by 2050. This is based on federal, provincial, and regional GHG emissions reduction targets. By 2030, emissions are to be reduced by 45%.

On Thursday, the Mayors’ Council got this process started by directing TransLink to more forward with purchasing only battery-electric, trolley, or renewable natural gas (RNG) buses moving forward.

RNG comes from sewage, landfills, and farms. It is created by decomposing organic waste.

The following map shows which routes are currently electric, will be converted to electric, and will be RNG powered by 2031.

Renewable fuel transit routes by 2031. Select map to enlarge. Source: TransLink

The cost of this plan is $450 million over the next 10 years. There will be further costs beyond 2030 to renew the transit fleet.

Because of reduced operation costs due to the switch from diesel fuel to electricity and renewable natural gas, there is only a 2 to 3% increase in costs over the next 30 years between continuing with the status-quo or going with all renewable energy buses.

Incremental TransLink fleet electrification costs from 2020 to 2050, relative to status-quo. Select chart to enlarge. Source: TransLink

One of the reasons for the increased cost is that TransLink will need to install new infrastructure to support battery-electric buses such as upgrading bus depots with battery chargers, and installing fast-chargers in-route.

The Mayors’ Council of course is going to advocate to the provincial and federal governments to pay for switching out our region’s transit buses to use low carbon fuel sources.

At the Mayors’ Council meeting, TransLink staff stated that the cost of renewable energy was verify with BC Hydro which includes factoring in the switching of the private vehicle fleet in our province from fossil fuel to electric.

This plan will not have a meaningful impact on the commitments made in the current 10-Year vision for transit such as building SkyTrain to Langley.

If all goes to plan, we should see more battery-electric buses being rolled-out starting in the next several years.