Just four months after saying electric buses wouldn’t work in Ottawa, the general manager in charge of OC Transpo is urging council to skip a pilot project and add two of the vehicles to its fleet.
“You don’t need to pilot this, you should do this,” John Manconi told the city’s transit commission Wednesday.
Manconi said other cities have conducted pilots to test batteries and study integration with existing fleets.
“We’re plugged in,” he said.
Manconi is recommending the city skip the normal tendering process and buy two 12-metre electric buses from Quebec-based Nova Bus. The buses would run on shorter downtown routes such as the 5, 9 or 10 starting in 2020.
But some councillors want OC Transpo to undergo a more rigorous procurement process.
“Tender is absolutely the way we have to go,” Coun. Riley Brockington said.
$6M for buses, charging stations
The committee agreed, and allotted a maximum of $6 million for the buses and charging infrastructure, money that will be reallocated from the capital works-in-progress fund.
Manconi said he will consider different models that can also handle longer ranges than the Nova Bus vehicles.
In May, in response to an inquiry from Coun. Catherine McKenney, Manconi recommended against an electric bus pilot project, citing cost — electric buses cost about twice as much as the $630,000 diesel model OC Transpo uses —and fears it might switch focus from LRT.
During budget deliberations in February, Manconi said electric buses wouldn’t work in Ottawa because of the typical length of routes here.
But on June 12, Mayor Jim Watson, who had promised electric buses during the 2018 election campaign, called on staff to work on a plan to increase the number of buses that rely on clean energy by 2025.
On Wednesday, Manconi said he’d never been opposed to the idea of alternative fuels for the OC Transpo fleet.