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Guelph gets greener as first electric bus hits the streets

In celebration of Clean Air Day, Guelph’s first electric bus hit the road on Wednesday, officially beginning service on routes throughout the city

Residents in Guelph might not hear it as it passes by.

But it won’t be long before they recognize the City's first blue and green electric bus with it’s ‘Powered by ELECTRI CITY’ slogan.  

In celebration of Clean Air Day, Guelph’s first electric bus hit the road on Wednesday, officially beginning service on routes throughout the city.

“This marks an important milestone in our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint in Guelph,” says Robin Gerus, general manager of Guelph Transit.

“Our gradual switch to electric buses will provide an even more sustainable and eco-friendly option for transportation.” 

Employees from Cooperators in Guelph noticed the electric bus outside at Central Station and decided to take a ride.

“I wasn’t going to come into the office today, but I’m so glad I did,” Shannon Refcio said.

Ann Croucher said the electric bus is ‘innovation, and that is what Guelph is all about’.

And for co-worker Amy Barrett, the electric bus ‘is so Guelph’.

“This is amazing. It’s all about doing anything we can to help the environment,” she said.   

The City’s growing fleet of electric buses will help Guelph become a net-zero carbon community by 2050.

Mike Van Kooy, fleet electrification and facilities supervisor with Guelph Transit says electric buses are quieter, which will help to reduce noise pollution in the city. 

“Going to zero emission with electric buses, is the right thing for Guelph and the right thing for the environment globally,” Van Kooy said.

“People are excited to see where the new technology is taking us. The feedback has been phenomenal. Everyone who drive the bus, loves it. It’s smoother and it is so quiet.”

Van Kooy says, another bonus is that anyone who has buses going up and down their street, won’t hear them.

“And when you are on the bus, the only thing you really hear, is the air conditioner come on. When people are talking, you don’t have to talk over the engine.”

In September of 2021, the city ordered its first electric buses from Nova Bus, a company that provides sustainable transit solutions. The first two arrived in Guelph earlier this year. Nine more buses are being built in Canada and are expected to join the fleet next year.  

Running Guelph Transit’s current diesel-powered bus fleet accounts for one third of the City’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike diesel buses, electric buses have overall lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The City of Guelph has been test driving the new electric bus since February 2023. 

“These are 'long range' buses. Everything determines the charge and affects how far you go including hills and temperature. But we are doing route analysis testing. A fully charged electric bus should last one 10-hour shift," Van Kooy said.

Electric buses can be fully charged in about three hours. They can travel up to an average of 300 kilometres per charge and each bus has six battery packs, four on the roof, and two behind the rear wheels. 

“Buying electric buses is an important step toward the city’s goal of electrifying our entire fleet of vehicles,” says Doug Godfrey, general manager of Operations.

“Our goal for buses specifically is to replace seven diesel buses a year until we are fully electric. Every step we take toward electrifying our transit fleet has a positive and long-term impact on our local environment, and globally.” 

Guelph Transit bus operator Alex Cox is thrilled to be part of the evolution and progression as the city moves forward with new technologies that look at reducing emissions and preserving the environment.

"Driving the electric bus compared to a regular bus, they are similar. So, the transition really wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. The electric buses are very quiet. One passenger asked if it was running. I told her that it had been running the whole time," Cox said.

"I think that will be something people have to get used to, just being more aware."

Overall, Cox says it's been a great experience.

"It's been positive for me, to be here for the transition, to see it, experience it, and be a part of it."

Dawn Pewtress has been a Guelph Transit bus operator for 13 years.

"I was a little apprehensive at first because it's a big change. But it has ended up being a pleasant surprise. It’s wonderful," Pewtress said. 

"Being an operator and working a 10-hour shift, this is much more comfortable and much more pleasant to do my job. And the back of the bus is much more comfortable and accessible. It’s going to be better for everybody all round, and yes, it’s better for the environment.

While the new Guelph Transit and Fleet Services facility is being built, electric buses will be stored and charged at the existing Guelph Transit facility on Watson Road South.  

"People seems to love the electric bus and it’s very been positive,” Van Kooy said.

“Everyone who rides is amazed how quiet it is and they are excited that not only is Guelph Transit doing it, but the City of Guelph is doing it. We’re a leader among other communities of our size.”