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Press release  •  3 min

Electrification of Canadian school buses is progressing far too slowly

New study revealed during first CESBA conference

MONTREAL, May 30 2023 - The Canadian Electric School Bus Alliance (CESBA)- led by Équiterre and Green Communities Canada - unveiled its first study, Pathways for Canadian Electric School Bus Adoption (produced by Dunsky Energy + Climate) during its ‘Electrifying Canada’s School Bus Fleet: Challenges, Lessons Learned and Solutions’ conference. Starting today, the conference runs until June 8, and will bring together researchers, government officials and transport companies to discuss the electrification of school bus transportation in Canada.

Current state of affairs: The importance of electrifying school buses

The famous yellow bus has been driving children to school since the 1930s in Canada. Today, between 45,000 to 50,000 school buses are currently in service in Canada, the majority of which still run on diesel. School buses represent a major part of the Canadian transport sector, which is one of the two industrial sectors whose emissions have risen continuously over the past 30 years. The transport sector currently accounts for 25% of Canada's total GHG emissions.

The school buses in circulation drive over 2 million Canadian students daily - that’s a total of 792 million trips per year. According to the most recent public data, the total of electric school buses (ESBs) in Canada is no more than 300 (84 in PEI, 130 in Quebec, 52 in BC and 20 in Ontario). That’s less than 1% of the total existing fleet. Maintaining an all-diesel fleet of school buses worsens the problems associated with road transportation, such as air quality and noise pollution to which our children are exposed on a daily basis.

Canada’s electrification targets

Canada aims to have 100% of new medium and heavy-duty vehicles (MHDVs) sales become zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2040. Yet, in the midst of a climate crisis, the government has no specific target for ESBs. CESBA would like to see 100% of school buses converted to electric by 2040*.

How to electrify Canada’s school bus fleet?

The study led by Dunsky demonstrates that substantial government support is needed and action must be taken at the federal level to support school bus operators across the country to make the switch. The key recommendations are available in the study.

Solutions and Recommendations

Among the solutions presented in the study, increased capital will be paramount. It will be crucial to invest over $1.25 billion in annual capital to support the transition, extending existing federal funding programs for ESBs and charging infrastructure. Ensuring programs are sufficient and easily accessible will be equally important to help make ESBs more affordable.

Three other solutions are highlighted:

  • Planning for a sufficient supply of electric school buses: Battery and electric school bus (ESB) manufacturing capacity for the Canadian market must increase.

  • Increasing the ESB turnover rate: To reach 100% ESB conversion by 2040, we need to start electrifying at least 2,850 buses per year starting in 2023 over the next 17 years in order to reach an average conversion of 48,450 buses by 2040.

  • Deploying education and awareness campaigns: Education campaigns must include training and coaching programs for the workforce. Operational challenges remain and the sector must be better supported.

The study highlights 4 strong advantages to electric school buses: they are (1) logistically easier to operate, (2) less polluting and better for the environment, (3) better for children’s health, and (4) more cost effective in the long run.

Conference - Electrifying Canada’s school bus fleet: Challenges, Lessons Learned and Solutions

CESBA’s conference aims to foster exchange on best practices from provincial leaders and fleet operators who are enabling and operationalizing the transition to ESBs in Canada. It seeks to foster contributions to the development of ESB acceleration recommendation reports and to establish stronger networks across provinces to build a pan Canadian movement.

The three upcoming panels will focus on the role of the provinces in supporting the electrification of school transportation (June 1), ways to advance the adoption of electric school buses in key provinces (June 6) and operationalizing the electrification of school transportation in the field (June 8).

The panels will feature CESBA’s financial partner, the Trottier Family Foundation; the research firm, Dunsky Energy + Climate; provincial government representatives, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (Government of Prince Edward Island) and the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low-Carbon Innovation (Government of British Columbia); transportation professionals, Autobus Chambly and the Association of Student Transportation Services of British Columbia; and environmental and social organizations including the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Ecology Action Centre, Pembina Institute, Pollution Probe and Electric Mobility Canada (EMC).

Quotes

Jeff Turner, Director, Clean Mobility at Dunsky Energy + Climate

"Electric school buses bring numerous benefits to communities, including direct health benefits for children, and can serve as a highly visible showcase of transportation electrification opportunities. While barriers to adoption exist, our research found that there are numerous actions that can be taken to remove barriers and support operators in increasing the number of electric school buses on the road."

Marc-André Viau, Director of Government Relations at Équiterre

"If there's one sector where electrification and decarbonization are a matter of consensus, it's school buses. The political will and leadership shown by our governments in this energy transition away from fossil fuels should serve as a springboard for all other forms of mobility and all other economic sectors."

Brianna Salmon, Executive Director at Green Communities Canada

"Accelerating electric school bus adoption is an opportunity to improve the health of children and engage them in a vital climate solution. The CESBA is building national momentum toward an equitable and widespread transformation by establishing a coalition of technical experts, industry partners, operational stakeholders, and community champions. The conference will highlight diverse perspectives and stories from across Canada and is another step toward achieving a fully electric transition by 2024. "


For the executive report summary (shorter version), click here.

For more information on the conference details, check out this page.

To learn more on CESBA, please visit https://eschoolbusalliance.ca/

Note to editors :

*Indeed, the targets set (35% by 2030 and 100% by 2040) only concern the percentage of new sales, not the percentage of conversions

Communications Officer, Media Relations

acoteleduc@equiterre.org (514) 605-2000
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