Reducing Emissions from City Transit Systems
The wheels on Electromobility by Nova Bus don’t just ‘go round and round’; with OPPCharge, they’re leading the way to a cleaner, greener future.
In response to increasing alarm over climate change created by greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), the Province of Quebec, under the leadership of Premier Jean Charest in 2012 issued a Climate Change Action Plan (2013-2020). What it calls for is a search to find ways to reduce GHG by 30 percent by 2020 and by 37.5 percent by 2030, with a reduction of petroleum products by 40 percent in 2030. While there’s more than one factor contributing to climate change, studies cited on their website by the Société de transport de Montreal (STM) show that transportation in Quebec accounted for 43 percent of all GHG and 76 percent of all consumed petroleum products.
With over four million people living in Greater Montreal, many of them commuters, civic leaders and STM realized the city itself was a major part of the problem and needed to take the lead in achieving the goals set out in Charest’s plan. They began by expanding the offer of public transportation and promoting it in an effort to encourage more motorists to use public transit. But that itself has inherent problems as cars, they admit, are parked 95 percent of the time, while diesel-fuelled public transit buses are in operation more than 80 percent of the time, constantly polluting the air.
The effect air pollution is having in cities around the world, including Montreal, is alarming civic leaders everywhere after the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report in 2014, indicating that in 2012 seven million people died (that’s one in eight global deaths) as a result of air pollution exposure.
A partial solution for Montreal’s concern was the acquisition of 51 biodiesel-electric hybrid buses, which have been on city streets since last year. The ideal solution, of course, would be a fully electric bus, with zero GHG emissions – but up until this year that solution was impractical, as the vehicle would require hours and hours of down time, up to 12 hours, while recharging.
The solution – Electromobility by Nova Bus
The solution, however, to STM’s conundrum of where to find a 100 percent fully electric bus that can be charged quickly – in as little as five minutes – was in their own backyard in nearby St-Eustache and St-François-du-Lac, where Nova Bus, wholly owned by the Volvo Group since 2004, has been manufacturing conventionally fuelled (diesel, gasoline and natural gas) vehicles since 1993 and hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) since 2006.
Now following an Electromobility Strategy, “Nova Bus is moving forward with the electrification of its key components to reduce fuel consumption and emissions,” said Emmanuelle Toussaint, the company’s Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs. “Electric buses will help cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and really improve the quality of life (for city dwellers) because there is zero air pollution and zero noise pollution. Our electric buses are silent, so they can go into residential neighbourhoods.”
But what about the cost? “To purchase the bus is more expensive,” she said, “but if you look at everything it’s less expensive because it needs less maintenance and repair and you don’t have to pay for fuel, so it’s cheaper to run. So, yes, the initial cost is higher, but after a few years of operation, the total cost of ownership will be less expensive.”
And what about the length of time required to charge the vehicle, which was the stumbling block for customers? Can it really be fast? The answer to that is a resounding ‘YES!’ as the Volvo Group, in partnership with Siemens and ABB has developed OPPCharge, a unique, fast-charging station. “It takes only five to six minutes to charge, so you can run electric buses twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, because you don’t have to charge them overnight, as compared with other solutions,” Toussaint said. “So there’d be a charging station set up at the end of each route and the bus would do one route, stop, and charge as people get off and on and then go the other way.”
The OPPCharge system is already successfully supporting 100 percent electric buses in Sweden, with plans to expand into Luxembourg. Now in a pilot project they’ve named City Mobility, Montreal’s SMT has installed two charging stations at Angrignon and Square Victoria to accommodate the three electric buses they acquired from Nova Bus this past December and tested early in 2017 on the 36 Monk Line. If all goes well, the company wants to convert their entire fleet to electric by 2025, with the goal for Montreal to become a world leader in public electric transport.
“We want to continue to develop our solutions in Electromobility,” Toussaint said, “so we’re looking at the City Mobility project where the customer will share with us the performance result so we make sure we have really good feedback. That’s important for us because we know there’s a lot of excitement in the market and a lot of people are interested.”
The future – Electromobility creates cleaner North American cities
Nova Bus currently has 63 percent of the Canadian market as a result of the high standard of excellence of their vehicles, in part due to the fact that the company has access to the best experts through the Volvo group. “Being part of this group is very exciting,” Toussaint said, “because they are the leaders in the areas of environmental, reliability and safety concerns. We always work to have the safest buses possible because the passengers are extremely important to us as well as the other people who are on the road.”
The company is also able to take advantage of certain Volvo products such as the Intelligence Transportation System (ITS4Mobility), which according to the company’s website, “helps operators optimize service and fleet management, while riders can reap the benefits of real-time information.” Transit vehicles manufactured by other companies do have smart systems, Jean-Yves Vallée, Director of Product Planning said, “but they’re third party systems, so we’re unique in that we own this system and because we build the vehicle we have access to more information coming off the bus in terms of maintenance and we can offer that to our customers.” In terms of accessibility, their coaches are also unique. While the low-floor system which makes it easy for passengers with disabilities to walk on and off is standard for all manufacturers, the front area is constructed with a very long overhang, that provides ‘swivel space’ for people in wheelchairs.
With a proven track record in Canada for durability, reliability and innovation, and with North America’s first fully electric bus being tested in Montreal, Nova Bus is in an excellent position to expand into the United States where they are one of the leading providers of transport solutions through their manufacturing facility in Plattsburgh, New York.
The time is certainly right for Electromobility and OPPCharge to move forward, as the mayors of twelve major American cities have recognized the intrinsic relationship between urban transit and climate-changing GHG emissions and air pollution, and are seeking to do something about it through membership in the C40 (Cities Climate Leadership Group), an international group of civic leaders formed in London in 2005, which is supported by the Volvo Group.
At their December 2016 meeting held in Mexico City, the mayors of Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City took the bold step of declaring they will ban all diesel-fuelled vehicles within their cities by 2025. Their declaration is a challenge for other C40 member cities, including those in the US (Austin, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC) as well as Toronto and Vancouver in Canada. While it may be difficult to prevent a diesel-fuelled vehicle from entering city limits, Montreal is proving that it is within the power of a city to limit the emissions they create through their own transit system.
And once the decision is made in other major cities to go pollution-free and fully electric, transit authorities won’t need to spend years researching the market because Nova Bus will have tested and proven the efficacy of Electromobility.