Montreal Is Happy With Electric Buses, But Initial Costs Were High

DEC 5 2018 BY MARK KANE 18

EV buses and infrastructure becomes more affordable compared to early models

Montréal would like to purchase only all-electric buses from 2025. The city introduced the first three in May 2017, and now waits for more, after gaining some experience.

Initially, there were not many EV buses to choose from, so Société de transport de Montreal (STM) went with short-range (37 km / 23 mile) buses, combined with three DC fast charging stations (350 kW), that enables to replenish some range in a few minutes. Bus cost was $1.2 million CAD each plus three stations for $0.8 million CAD each. Compared to $0.9 million CAD for conventional buses, it’s more than twice as high.

The buses work fine on line No. 36 (downtown Montreal to the Angrignon métro station in the west), which is just 11 km (6.8 miles) so four more buses will be purchased to electrify the line completely with seven EVs.

Montreal Gazette wrote that the bus project was a success, but electric buses come at a high cost. Probably this is why the city is now purchasing more longer-range buses. 30 to be delivered by New Flyer. Another 4 will be supplied by BYD.

“Eighteen months after the first fully electric buses took to Montreal’s roads on May 24, 2017, the experiment has been “very successful, even beyond our expectations,” said François Chamberland, the STM’s director of engineering, infrastructure and major projects. “It was a North American first, to use rapid-charging technology.””

“At $800,000 apiece, the initial recharging stations were exorbitantly expensive because they were prototypes, but Chamberland said the price will come down now that more companies are producing them.”

The total number of recharges over 135,000 km is 13,000 times. Average fast charge time is three minutes – “less than the anticipated five” – but sometimes up to seven minutes (“caused by winter conditions and busier rush-hour driving”). They are quiet, drive smooth and save 40% on energy/fuel costs.

The New Flyer Xcelsior CHARGE buses with 466 kWh also cost $1.2 million CAD, but don’t require that much of investment in charging infrastructure like the short-range buses.

Before electric buses mature and become even more affordable, STM will purchase 929 hybrid-diesel buses by 2024. It means that the last one will be still in use in 2040.


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18 Comments on "Montreal Is Happy With Electric Buses, But Initial Costs Were High"

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Who cares about initial cost? The only cost that should be examined is the total cost of ownership (TCO). Unlike ordinary consumers, fleet operators make decisions based on TCO.

Exactly. The 300K price difference between the electric and hybrid buses will easily be eliminated over a few years of fuel savings with full electric. It’s shameful that in 2024 Montreal has decided it will still be buying diesel hybrid buses… and I can assure you that what they will probably do is buy a ton of those hybrids in 2024 and then not make any new purchases for a few years, that way they can still say ”we did as we promised, we didn’t buy any hybrid buses after 2025….
terrible lack of political will, meanwhile we continue to burn diesel needlessly. it’s retarded.

Or another way to look at it is that if they buy a final Diesel fleet in 2024 that gives them a generation or two of EV development to wait through before replacing them, meaning when they do have to upgrade around 2034 there is much less risk and a much better developed product.

It’s obviously not the morally correct viewpoint we all want, but because they have to watch their bottom line it may be their only option.

The problem is always that your current year’s budget needs to have enough to cover the extra cost. Budget police care little about TCO. They are just looking at one year at a time. Penny wise but pound foolish, as they say.

There may be budgetary/accounting reasons why the initial capital outlay needs to be treated differently than ongoing operations cost (maintenance/repairs/”fuel”): Very frequently these are budgeted differently. This is also the case in many private companies.
Also, for the municipal arena, if the initial budget is very high (typical for large commercial EVs, and also for any special infrastructure needed like catenary and/or fast chargers), it may require special bonds or taxes.

A lot of this type of trouble arises from required amortization rates. If I remember correctly, when applying for federal funding for replacement buses, the assumption for the buses is that they will last 12 years. Can’t get money to replace an old one until it is 12 years old, and the budget bid spreads cost (don’t know if generally accepted procedures allow lumping initial capitol expenditure with ongoing maintenance & operating costs or not). On one hand, it seems stupid. On the other hand, when I was in the USAF, someone would believe the salesman’s story about the benefits of a new computer system – the manning would be reduced in anticipation of the benefit – and the computer system fell splat on its face leaving the duty station in a deep hole because they had failed to achieve the promised benefit. On a positive note – our city isn’t required to dispose of old buses that are working better than newer ones. Hopefully Montreal will find the benefit of electric to be such that in a couple years, they can show data to justify requesting a waiver to move money from Operation and Maintenance to Capital Acquisitions.

Good to see.
You just have to goto any city main street and stand and watch the bus traffic, or close your eyes and listen to the bus noise, or try not to breath in the exhaust pollution. It’s incredible. How did we ever allow this? We had no choice, until now.

And for those who think cars are “clean enough”, all you need to do is go downtown during rush hour and watch the waves of heat rise from the mass population of car traffic, the additional heat and the smell of burnt carbon product in the afternoon is amazing at city scale.

Satan loves rush hour.

Many cities already use overhead traction with trackless trollies, which are silent. And clean. And don’t depend on large batteries. BEV buses are more appropriate a solution for less dense/suburban routes where high costs of installing traction don’t make sense.

Mr Kane, if you’re going to raise the issue of initial cost, then. you should also raise the issue of fuel cost and fuel savings.

You should get the yearly fleet miles expected to run, and compare the diesel cost no longer being spent.
Saving should be substantial. Easily paying for these buses over their lifetime. Free Buses.

If these cities build solar & storage, they can also lower their electric expense with guaranteed pricing for the next 30 years. And again, these facilities would pay for themselves over their lifetime, actually they should break even in 8-10 years, and then generate profit.

Solar & storage on the roofs of their facilities would also create Local Jobs, growing the Local Economy.

Reasonable point about solar, but Quebec and Manitoba are rich in clean, renewable hydropower that are both state-owned, which means they can guarantee cheap power in the long term that is green. So solar wouldn’t make as much sense in these places as other places that don’t have hydro and have high electricity costs.

Quebec has lots of Hydro power, and high gas prices , EV bus almost a no brainer,except for initial cost .

Yup. Even the higher initial cost is a non-issue since payback period is quick with the high diesel price and low electricity cost here in Quebec, so for fleet operators it’s a total no-brainer, especially government and public transit fleets. Better to pay a bit more to the banks and way less to the oil conglomerates (for more reasons than one).

But as a public bus operator, I believe they have good price on gas (it wouldn’t make sense to charge them taxes that would be pay by the governement anyway). This is probably why they only save 40% on fuel, as a consumer would save much more than that.

That is a reasonable assumption why they state “They…save 40% on energy/fuel costs.” Damn, my Volt saves me 80% of the cost of fuel when I use electrons originating from QC Hydro and not gasoline to run the generator. 40% seems really low for the pure ev buses savings over ICE diesels

You can really see in this example how advances in technology are rapid and how this will vastly increase acceptance of the electrification of transit. Their old buses cost 1.2M and gave then a few tens of kms of range, which needed to be supplemented with the very expensive overhead fast chargers. Now they buy buses with 466 kWh (probably 300-400 kms…ten times as much!) for the SAME PRICE and don’t have to invest as much in the more expensive infrastructure (compared to depot chargers for the garage, which are probably an order of magnitude less in cost, especially in a bulk purchase)

the “learning price” for promoting home made Nova buses….(just watch the hybrids exhaust pipe on the backstop of the buses….)

Initial costs are always high with newer technology. But total cost of ownership can be and often is much lower than for the alternative. That’s true for both EVs and for solar power generation. Put them together and you save a bundle over time.

$1.2M CAD for 466 kWh battery bus. Tesla Model S 100D (100 kWh battery) is $120k in Canada. Five model S gives you larger battery and will cost half. Tesla should start manufacturing buses.