Investing in greener public transit infrastructure in Halifax
How We Got Here
Approved by Halifax Regional Council on May 26, 2023, the Zero Emission Bus Project is the first of its kind in Atlantic Canada. The project will result in the addition of more than 200 electric buses to the Halifax Transit fleet, an expansion of the Ragged Lake Transit Centre, and an eco-rebuild of the Burnside Transit Centre to achieve a net-zero standard.
The Zero Emission Bus Project aligns with municipal, provincial and federal climate targets and will help to achieve the goals and actions outlined in HalifACT, the municipality’s climate change initiative.
Where We Are
On July 15, 2021, the governments of Canada, Nova Scotia and the Halifax Regional Municipality announced a combined $112 million investment toward the project. This funding is being used to implement Phase 1 of the project, which includes the procurement of 60 electric buses, an expansion of the Ragged Lake Transit Centre to house the vehicles and the associated charging equipment, as well as a deep energy retrofit of the facility to achieve a net-zero standard.
Phase 1: Electric Buses and Ragged Lake Transit Centre Expansion
In May 2022, the Halifax Regional Council approved the award to the vendor, Nova Bus Limited., for purchasing up to 60 40-ft battery electric buses and chargers. The buses will be similar to the Nova Bus vehicles currently used by Halifax Transit, but will have an electric motor instead of diesel, and will also include permanent Operator safety shields.
The first pilot electric bus is arriving in December 2023, and will initially be used for training, road testing, and public engagement activities. The remaining 59 buses will be arriving over the coming year, with the full fleet anticipated to arrive by the end of 2024.
Phase 1 of the Ragged Lake Transit Centre expansion began in June 2023 and is expected to be completed in fall 2024. The new expansion will include space for electric bus storage and charging equipment.
Phase 2: Burnside Transit Centre Eco-Rebuild
Phase 2 of the Zero Emission Bus Project includes planning for the replacement of the Burnside Transit Centre with a newly-designed, energy-efficient facility to house the zero-emission fleet.
Funding is now in place for the planning and design phase of the project. The province is providing $7.1 million, the federal government is investing $6.5 million, and Halifax Regional Municipality is contributing $7.1 million.
The new transit centre is expected to be completed by 2028.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why is Halifax Transit converting its fleet to more sustainable vehicles?
The Zero Emission Bus Project aligns with climate targets for federal and provincial governments and will also help achieve the goals and actions outlined in the municipality’s climate change plan, HalifACT.
With an electric drive motor, the Nova Bus LFSe+ electric bus improves air quality by eliminating the emission of pollutants and greenhouse gases. In addition, public transportation reduces pollution by reducing individual vehicle use and decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, helping to mitigate the climate crisis.
Along with reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the project will also reduce operating costs for Halifax Transit by switching to a low-carbon or zero-emission fleet. The addition of renewable solar energy and plans for future storage capacity will help make the transit system more resilient.
- What is involved with the expansion and retrofit of the Ragged Lake Transit Centre?
The expansion of the Ragged Lake Transit Centre involves:
- Constructing a 3,100 m2 one-story expansion to the west side of the Ragged Lake Transit Centre bus storage garage.
- Adding four lanes to the existing bus storage building, providing space to accommodate up to 40 additional buses.
- Installing 67 electric bus charging stalls (up to 5,250 kW) in the new expansion, as well in the three existing bus storage lanes.
- Site works to accommodate the increased footprint of the expanded building.
- Halifax’s Environment & Climate Change division is also leading a project to install solar panels on top of the existing building which will be coordinated with the expansion work.
Additionally, to align with the HalifACT target of net-zero municipal operations by 2050, the Ragged Lake Transit Centre is being retrofitted to a net-zero standard. This work includes:
- Building design with attention to solar shading and daylighting.
- Well insulated, with minimum true R-30 walls and true R-40 roof.
- Improved air ventilation rates (0.6 air changes per hour).
- Air curtain for bay doors.
- Smart building controls, LED lighting and Dedicated Outdoor Air System (DOAS).
- Highly efficient heating and cooling system.
- Maximized on-site solar electricity generation.
The expansion of the Ragged Lake Transit Centre will accommodate storage of up to 60 40-foot electric buses.
The expansion construction began in June 2023 and will be completed by the end of 2024.
- What is involved in the Burnside Transit Centre Eco-Rebuild?
Phase 2 of the Zero Emission Bus Project will include an eco-rebuild of the Burnside Transit Centre to house additional electric buses and achieve a net-zero standard. Funding is now in place for the planning and design phase of the project. The new transit centre is expected to be completed by 2028.
To ensure that the Burnside Transit Centre can adapt to emerging fueling alternatives, the facility will be designed and rebuilt to become a flexible fuel facility. It primarily must be able to operate the existing diesel fuel buses and new battery electric buses, while also planning for the potential future addition of other fueling alternatives, such as renewable natural gas (RNG) and hydrogen.
- Are there new safety requirements associated with electric buses?
There are special safety precautions that must be observed while maintenance staff perform certain procedures on electric buses, and appropriate training is being provided to facilitate this. Additionally, Operators will receive familiarization training to provide them with awareness of the minor differences in safety-related features on the new electric buses versus the existing diesel buses. Halifax Transit’s new electric buses, chargers, and expanded Ragged Lake Transit Centre will meet or exceed all relevant safety regulations, with special care being taken to mitigate potential risks of fire.
- What differences will passengers notice between diesel and electric buses?
The Nova Bus LFSe+ buses are similar to many of Halifax Transit’s existing buses but will have an electric motor instead of a diesel motor. The interior layout of the electric buses is also very similar. Each bus will accommodate up to 36 seated passengers – the same seated passenger capacity as diesel 40ft Nova buses – and will also feature a Q-Pod wheelchair restraint system and a designated seat for people with service animals.
The main difference passengers may notice is that the electric bus is quieter, both on approach at the bus stop and in the interior. Passengers may also notice that stops and starts are smoother.
- Will passengers with vision loss still be able to hear the bus approaching the stop?
Passengers with vision loss may notice that the electric buses are much quieter, both on approach at the bus stop, and in the interior of the bus. Consequently, Halifax Transit’s electric buses will be outfitted with Acoustic Vehicle Alerting Systems, which generate unobtrusive warning sounds to provide audible cues at low speeds.
- Will the new electric buses travel the same distance as current diesel buses?
The distance that a Halifax Transit bus travels during a typical day can vary greatly depending on the routes it is servicing. The new electric buses will have adequate range to service the many of Halifax Transit’s bus routes without making any schedule changes or other operational accommodations.
A number of routes require exceptionally long range and will not be serviced by electric buses during the current stage of the transition to fleet electrification.
- How will the electric buses perform in extremely cold (-20°C) temperatures or snow?
Halifax Transit staff undertook a testing plan with a demo Nova LFSe+ bus in February and March 2023, during which temperatures reached -20C and a major snow event occurred. Results of that testing did not indicate any significant concerns with respect to battery performance or range at low temperatures or handling during snowy conditions.
- Where and how will the electric buses be charged?
During Phase 1 of the project, Halifax Transit’s electric buses will be charged exclusively at the Ragged Lake Transit Centre. In the future, buses will also be charged at the Burnside Transit Centre following the completion of the facility rebuild, which is anticipated to be complete by 2028.
The expanded RLTC facility will have 35 chargers and 67 charging stalls. Each charger provides power to one or more charging stalls, up to a maximum of three per charger. When multiple buses are connected to a single charger, those buses are charged sequentially, one after another. Charging will mainly take place overnight while the buses are being cleaned and minor maintenance issues are being addressed.
- Will chargers for buses be installed on street or at terminals?
Chargers on the street or at transit terminals are not included in the project at this time. Buses will only be charged at the Ragged Lake Transit Centre during Phase 1 of the project when they are not in service.
- Can electric buses be charged as they drive?
Yes, in a sense. The Nova Bus LFSe+ has a regenerative braking system. The system captures kinetic energy during deceleration, storing it in the battery, so that it can be reused as electricity to power the motor. For a city bus that makes a lot of stops, you can imagine how often the battery will charge – every time the brake pedal is pushed!
- How often do the batteries in the electric buses need to be replaced?
Halifax Transit anticipates a replacement of batteries as part of the mid-life refit of an electric bus. This second battery will power the bus until it is retired.
- What is the long-term goal of the Zero Emission Bus Project?
The longer-term goal is to transition Halifax Transit to a fully zero-emission fleet. Transit staff are currently investigating what the optimum make-up of the future of Halifax Transit’s conventional bus fleet might look like, balancing between battery electric and alternative propulsion technologies, such renewable natural gas (RNG), hydrogen fuel cell, etc.
This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada.
Ce projet est financé en partie par le gouvernement du Canada.