Skip to main content

Ottawa's buses are going electric; here's what it's like to ride one


OC Transpo buses are going electric, with a plan to make the entire fleet zero-emission. So, what’s it like to be a passenger?

Ottawa currently has four electric buses, but there is a plan for more.

A report prepared for the City of Ottawa's Transit Commission says that OC Transpo's electric buses are performing as well as the existing diesel vehicles, allaying concerns about the future transition to a fully electric fleet.

This follows a previous report last May that showed the battery-electric buses "met or surpassed" the range and efficiency promised by the manufacturer.

“After two years in service, our electric busses have accumulated over 500,000 kilometres and saved approximately 25,000 litres of fuel per bus in 2023. They have also proven reliable,” Program Manager of Capital Projects and Engineering Daniel Villeneuve told the city's Transit Commission Monday.

The city is going all in. Approximately 700 diesel-powered buses will be phased out by 2036, starting with around 350 going electric over the next three years.

“The eventual plan is to, as per the climate change master plan, is to convert all OC Transpo buses to zero emission,” Villeneuve tells CTV News Ottawa.

He says it is better for the environment and has lower fuel costs, but is going electric actually cheaper?

“To be the determined. The goal is yes, that on the maintenance there's a savings and also on the energy itself. Going from diesel to electric, we are anticipating a savings,” says Villeneuve.

Electric buses also cost more to buy. The city says it has budgeted $1.4 million per bus – compared to the cost of a diesel bus, which was around $700,000 years ago, when new.

Passenger experience

OC Transpo allowed CTV News to ride an electric bus recently. It’s fairly similar to being a passenger on a regular bus – and some may not even realize it; except for one thing that’s missing, the sound of the diesel engine.

The lack of engine noise has caused the city to install “white noise” generators on the exterior of the bus.

“That operates when the bus is a slow-moving, below 30 kilometers. So as they pull up to a station, you know, if there's pedestrians, cyclists and so on, it's for safety and also for accessible feature,” says Villeneuve.

While the bus is powered by electricity, there is a diesel-powered heater on board. Villeneuve tells CTV News it turns on when the temperature gets below 5 degrees Celsius.

OC Transpo says it is also adding more chargers and other upgrades at the St. Laurent bus garage, along with a planned boost to the power grid.

“We are in partnership with Hydro Ottawa to when they'll bring in a temporary service as we transition and a permanent connection as they build their new offsite substation to support the electricity required for the program,” says Villeneuve.

There will also be two natural gas-powered back-up generators, to charge buses in the event of a power outage. Top Stories

Stay Connected