Electric Mobility - Public Transit Stakeholder Interviews

Project Description

Arrive at an understanding of the drivers of EV adoption in the public transit context, as it relates to buses in particular, through interviews with leading municipal officials across the country.

Among larger vehicles, one of the interesting areas of application is the category of buses for public transit. While such vehicles are large by volume, they are much lighter than loaded heavy trucks and thus better suited to EV technology. Other attractive aspects about the public transit context are that operations are along precise and defined routes that eliminate any concerns with range. There is currently a partnership underway in Winnipeg to test rapid charge, battery electric buses built by New Flyer Industries. The partnership involves Winnipeg transit, the Federal and Manitoba governments, Mitsubishi, Red River College and Manitoba Hydro. So the concept of electric buses has gained at least some initial traction in Canada.

The purpose of this module is to assess the potential and to consider the important issues for similar EV technologies to be utilized in the public transit context across Canada. The research will address some of the same issues that apply for consumers and EV fleets with the exception that the focus is on public transit. With a small and finite set of potential adopters of the bus EV technology in Canada, the preferred approach is stakeholder interviews as opposed to a stated preference study which would be more appropriate with a large pool of potential respondents.

The introduction of EV buses will be associated with a range of issues. Cold weather operation may be an issue in some jurisdictions since it impacts the storage capacity of batteries. There will be evaluations of variables such as purchase and fuel/energy costs, maintenance costs, component replacement cycles and costs for additional personnel training. EV buses may require their own unique facility requirements.


The public transit stakeholder interviews module has been the subject of intense focus in the past 12 months and considerable progress has been made. Post-doctoral fellow Dr. Moataz Mohamed has taken a strong leadership role in the public transit context and indications are that this module will deliver far in excess of what was contemplated in the original proposal. PhD student Ryan Garnett has played a prominent role also along with other members of the overall electric mobility research team.

The core of efforts over the past year was focused on data collection in semi-structured interviews with transit service providers and municipalities across Canada. Eleven in-person interviews were conducted to capture nearly 70% of bus ridership across the country in terms of jurisdictions represented. A grounded theory qualitative analysis of the transcribed interviews revealed that 55 themes allocated across four categories captured the elements that are thought to govern the adoption of electric buses in Canada. An academic paper has been developed (see Stage 3 below) to disseminate these results and it is imminently to be submitted for a review process associated with the World Conference in Transport Research to take place in Shanghai, China in July 2016. Papers accepted through the review track are to be published in Transportation Research D.

It is worthwhile to summarize the various phases of this module that have been completed, are in progress or are planned:

  • Stage 1 was based on a literature review which resulted in a paper: "Electric Buses: A Review of Alternative Powertrains.” This has been submitted to The Journal of Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews. The research benefitted from a detailed literature review that visiting Professor Panos Papaioannou (from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece) conducted in 2014.
  • Stage 2 has been a content analysis of transportation master plans across the country to gain insight into the extent to which electric buses have penetrated the municipal planning landscape. A draft of a paper based on this work has been developed but has not been submitted yet to an academic journal.
  • Stage 3 is really at the core of the original proposed work and is based on interviews with service providers and municipalities about the prospects for electric mobility. This work has resulted in a paper titled: “What Hinders Adoption of the Electric Bus in Canadian Transit?: Perspectives of Transit Providers” which has already been submitted for possible publication in the journal Transportation Research D
  • Stage 3 research has revealed that smaller and medium-sized cities are arguably the most promising for adoption of electric buses. Accordingly, Stage 4 is intended to be a life cycle cost analysis in the small city context based on the conducted interviews and the literature. Related to this work will be research that assesses the impact of the e-bus on power grids in the small city context. A paper on this topic is expected to be completed in early 2016.
  • Stage 5 will focus on interviews with policy-makers to better understand the political barriers to E-bus adoption. Another set of up to 10 interviews would be completed by Spring 2016.
  • A final stage will develop a feasible blueprint for the adoption of e-buses in Canada. To some extent, this will be aligned with our overall Module Integration that unites the entire body of research conducted under the umbrella of this project.