Electric school busses for kids

Saint-Jérôme manufacturer Lion Electric is providing a cleaner ride to school for students across North America

Over 500,000 school busses are used to transport kids to school across North America every day, performing a vital but oft-overlooked educational task. As these busses age, around 40,000 new and replacement vehicles are purchased by school boards each year.

While the vast majority of these new iconic yellow busses still run on carbon-emitting diesel fuel, a small but growing number are all-electric vehicles. Leading this market is Quebec manufacturer Lion Electric Company, which designs, manufactures and assembles all components out of its Saint-Jérôme headquarters north of Montreal.

Founded in 2008, the company has grown into one of the North American market leaders in the electric school bus industry segment. It also produces other specialized electric vehicles like delivery and garbage trucks.

Lion Electric has now sold around 100 electric school busses to school boards across Canada, as well as an additional 50 in the U.S. In July 2019, the California Energy Commission awarded a new contract to Lion Electric to help fulfil a new $70 million order to replace over 200 diesel school busses across the state.

School busses are uniquely well-suited for electrification, operating on reliable schedules across relatively short distances that allow for sufficient charging. The Lion Electric buses maintain a range of 90 to 150 km, depending on configuration.

The biggest barrier to adoption, for now, remains the larger up-front cost of the vehicles. The vehicles can cost up to three times as much to purchase as traditional diesel busses, dissuading a lot of school boards from making purchases for now. But according to the Quebec environmental organization Equiterre, there are a number of additional benefits of going electric.

The Quebec government already subsidizes diesel fuel for school busses above 60 cents a litre (current prices sit at $1.20). Going electric would eliminate the need for this subsidy. Electric buses are also quieter, reducing noise pollution in residential neighbourhoods. Most importantly, operating Lion’s electric busses costs up to 60% less due to cheaper electricity and reduced maintenance costs.

Equiterre calculated that electrifying 90% of the province’s school bus fleet would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.37 million tonnes a year, create local jobs, reduce healthcare spending by $1 million and reduce annual oil imports by $67 million.

With growing understanding of the benefits of electrification, some provinces and states like California and Quebec are beginning to offer up-front subsidies for electric bus adoption or even setting hard targets for adoption. Reducing perverse subsidies that increase fossil fuel usage (like diesel fuel subsidies) and using their power of procurement are two of the most powerful tools governments have at their disposal. MORE

Ontario PCs Want To Stop Tracking Toxins. Experts Say It’ll Cost Us Our Health.

The government plans to repeal the Toxics Reduction Act, which makes companies report on their use of toxic chemicals and pollutants.

Emissions are seen coming from an Ontario cement plant in this 2015 file photo. Experts say the provincial government's plan to repeal a toxic substance regulation with affect human health and the environment.
Emissions are seen coming from an Ontario cement plant in this 2015 file photo. Experts say the provincial government’s plan to repeal a toxic substance regulation with affect human health and the environment. RANDY RISLING/TORONTO STAR VIA GETTY IMAGES

TORONTO — Environmentalists say Ontarians can expect more pollution if the Progressive Conservatives go through with their plan to repeal a toxic substances regulation.

“Exposure to toxic chemicals such as hormone disruptors and air pollutants adds billions of dollars in health care costs and significantly increases the burden of chronic diseases such as cancer and asthma,” Tim Gray, the executive director of advocacy organization Environmental Defence said in a statement.

“The Ontario government is not only undermining its own commitment to tackle pollution … it is also sending the wrong signal to industry and will encourage them to dump more toxics into our air, water and consumer goods.”

Schedule 5 of the government’s proposed Bill 66 repeals the Toxics Reduction Act (TRA). The 2009 act requires companies that use toxic substances, including those that can cause cancer, to create a plan to reduce that use. Whether or not they actually implement the plan, though, is voluntary. About 40 per cent of facilities have done so.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Economic Development Todd Smith make an announcement in February...
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Economic Development Todd Smith make an announcement in February 2019. Smith introduced Bill 66 on Dec. 6, 2018. TODD SMITH/FACEBOOK

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