GRT reveals first electric bus ready to roll around Waterloo Region

By Justine Fraser

A large investment of more than $15.1 million was put into Grand River Transit’s (GRT) zero-emission bus pilot project, which just launched its first electric bus on Friday. An additional ten electric buses are anticipated to hit the roads around the region by the end of the year.

The investment came from both federal and provincial government funds as well as funding from the Regional Municipality of Waterloo.

About four years ago, the region decided to ditch diesel-fueled buses and make the switch over to only purchasing hybrid or electric buses. About 300 buses in GRT’s fleet will have to be replaced.

GRT invited the community to come see the first electric bus and accompanying electric charging stations at the Waterloo Northfield Drive Maintenance Facility.

“It’s a really exciting day. We’re happy for the increased ridership, we’re happy to serve our community and this is another way to keep getting better,” said GRT’s Director of Transit Services, Doug Spooner.

“Electric buses offer us a quieter ride, a better customer experience, and obviously reduced carbon emissions.”

Region's first electric bus revealed. //Justine Fraser, CityNews 570
Region’s first electric bus revealed. Jan. 26, 2024 //Justine Fraser, CityNews 570

Spooner said the whole propulsion system is powered by batteries. All the pieces powered by diesel fuel are now powered electrically.

Spooner was joined for the announcement by MP Bardish Chagger, MPP Jess Dixon, and Regional Chair Karen Redman. Other local leaders attended the unveiling on Friday, including Kitchener’s Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, MP Mike Morrice, and Waterloo Mayor Dorothy McCabe.

“I think anytime we can add to our fleet that’s important because we’ve had such a tremendous uptick in ridership,” said McCabe.

With more buses in GRT’s fleet needing to be replaced, McCabe says the timeline for those is dependent on the supply chain and what competition is like with other municipalities to add electric buses.

“We’re on our way,” added McCabe.

The zero-emission bus pilot project is part of the region’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 80 per cent before 2050.

Region's first electric bus revealed. //Justine Fraser, CityNews 570
Inside the first all-electric bus. Jan. 26, 2024 //Justine Fraser, CityNews 570

All the electric buses were purchased from Nova Bus. The Northfield Drive Maintenance Facility will also house six electric chargers. Buses can be fully charged in close to four hours.

“I think it’s really eye-catching and they said also the upper level can be adapted to add chargers up on there as well. It’s eye-catching but it’s also a bit retro, I like it,” added McCabe.

Ryder the bunny, GRT's new mascot stands next to region's first electric bus Jan. 26, 2024. //Justine Fraser, CityNews 570
Ryder the bunny, GRT’s new mascot, stands next to region’s first electric bus Jan. 26, 2024. //Justine Fraser, CityNews 570

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