Project could make electric buses more viable

By Evan Midford

Jeongsoo Bae stands next an electric car charging station at Red River College’s Notre Dame Campus on Nov. 14. /EVAN MIDFORD

Jeongsoo Bae, Red River College grad and research assistant, is working with Winnipeg Transit to develop a tool that monitors the health of electric bus batteries in Winnipeg. The project that began over a year ago is reaching its final stages.

Bae and his coworkers are developing software to create a user-friendly tool that would allow technicians to easily check an electric bus battery’s charge by plugging a panel into a USB port in the bus. This would replace the current, more arduous process of removing batteries entirely from the electric buses to check their health.

“It’s been great,” said Bae. “I could actually get an opportunity to learn all the technologies, electrical insulation, and project management, of course.”

Bae is developing a maintenance tool for electric bus batteries that could make them more viable in Winnipeg. /EVAN MIDFORD

Christopher Basilio, the project supervisor, said Winnipeg’s cold weather has a detrimental impact on battery health.

“In a way, [The project] will make the batteries last longer,” Basilio said.

Winnipeg Transit has experimented with electric buses in the past. In 2014, Winnipeg Transit leased four electric buses into their fleet to demonstrate their viability in Winnipeg. The project never caught on, and now that number is down to one.

This is in spite of the publication of a joint report from the city and province earlier this year. In March, the report recommended Winnipeg Transit increase their electric bus fleet by 12 to 20 buses, or approximately three per cent of the City’s total number of buses.

Proposals were put forward to replace the City’s current diesel buses with electric buses. Recent mayoral runner-up Jenny Motkaluk’s platform included a plan to spend $581 million over five years to electrify all public transit buses in the City.

A Winnipeg Transit bus sits out of service on a November afternoon in St. Vital. /EVAN MIDFORD.

The push for electric buses comes from the City’s desire to lower greenhouse gas emissions. According to CBC, Winnipeg Transit causes less than one per cent of the City’s emissions.