The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division is confident electric buses can handle Saskatchewan winters following a recently completed EV Bus Pilot Project.

The division had the use of an EV Bus Pilot Project for late winter and early spring to collect information on how an electric bus works in cold Saskatchewan weather.

The division received the bus from Western Canada Bus in Regina in mid-March and returned it to the company last week.

According to Ryan Bruce, Manager of Transportation Services, the pilot project came from discussions with their bus supplier. He said the bus performed well, and the trial gave them a lot of valuable information they needed.

“(It went) very well,” Bruce said. “The electric bus performed to our expectations, we got the data out of it that we were hoping to as far as range and power consumption. It handled the weather well.

“It did the job,” he added. “It got the kids from their homes to school and back again safely and comfortably. It performed as a school bus should.”

There was a cold snap in late March that gave them time to see how the bus handled the conditions. Bruce said a few nights got down to around -28 C, which helped push the elective vehicle to its limits.

“We went in knowing that we knew nothing,” he explained. “It was just to learn for ourselves with no preconceived notions about how it was going to work out to see how the electric school bus would handle our area.”

The initial story received some negative backlash on social media after it was announced. Bruce wanted to clarify that the bus was merely a loaner for the pilot project.

“It’s too bad,” he said. “From the comments, people didn’t obviously read some of the article before commenting. I would like to reiterate that it did not cost us anything. We didn’t buy it and it is gone now. The company came and got it with our great thanks late last week.”

Although there was backlash on social media, the project did receive positive feedback from the person who drove it. The bus was deployed for the Sask. Rivers’ Red Wing school route. Bruce said the driver really enjoyed it.

“He said it had quite a bit of power and that surprised him, and yet it was very nimble in traffic,” Bruce explained. “It was easy to drive, warm inside and of course very quiet. There was a bit of a learning curve because the braking system works differently than the brakes on our regular buses, but it caused no issues on the road whatsoever and it was very warm.”

 The route to Red Wing is a mix of urban and rural.

“There were no issues with it on that route and it had ample power to get back here and plug back in and be ready for the afternoon and plug in overnight for the next day,” Bruce said.

Bruce explained that he doesn’t know when the technology will become more prevalent, but it did handle a route like Red Wing well.

“There would have to be some technology advancements before it would truly work in our school division, specifically range and charging capabilities and of course the cost is prohibitive right now,” he explained. “To actually buy them and put them in use right now the cost is prohibitive permanently. It definitely performed well for what we had to do.”

The idea of electric school buses could become a subject at the level of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association or Saskatchewan Teachers Federation. Bruce said that Saskatchewan Rivers, as an urban and rural division, could provide essential knowledge.

The bus cost the transportation department nothing, the bus company wanted to see how it handled conditions and the division got the use of a free bus for a period of time.

“I have been reporting this to other school divisions as well as to how it performed because we are in the enviable place of being the first school division in Saskatchewan to get really any experience with the electric bus,” Bruce said.

Bruce added that the EV Bus is taking off in larger urban regions in Ontario and British Columbia, but they have no plans to keep the bus or buy the bus.

The report data has been sent back to Western Canada Bus and that should be the end, unless Bruce has any questions.

“I doubt that they will be reporting back to me, we have got the data that we wanted out of it and fed it to them. Down the road I might think of a question for them for to go back into the telemetry and check out a specific instance,” he said.

Bruce was thankful to have Western Canada Bus use the division for this first of its kind pilot project.

“I would like to express my gratitude again to Western Canada Bus out of Regina because it cost them quite a bit of money just simply to even get it to us let alone the investment of the asset to leave it with us for a while,” he said.

By Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 06, 2023 at 11:45

This item reprinted with permission from   The Daily Herald   Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
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