LC3 Case Studies
Quebec recently passed legislation and regulatory plans to accelerate school bus electrification by March 2024, with goal to replace 65% of Quebec’s school bus fleet by 2030. Considering Quebec’s school bus electrification rate is currently 1%, this would entail a yearly replacement rate of 570 diesel buses through to 2030, which has raised feasibility concerns from Quebec’s bus operator association FTA (the Fédération des transporteurs par autobus).
While few technical implementation risks are thought to exist, financial and behavioural shifts are a major concern to operators and managers who will have to replace entire fleets and business models in a very short amount of time. This is where the Greater Montreal Climate Fund (GMCF) and Propulsion Quebec are offering a solution driven by local climate targets and community priorities.
Supporting both climate and social solutions
While this project will not directly account for decarbonising all of Quebec’s school bus sector, the importance of removing diesel vehicles from the road and communities should not be under-stated. The electrification of 65% of Québec school buses by 2030 would lead to a reduction of 800,000 tons of GHG emissions (programme d’électrification du transport scolaire, Ministère des Transports, Québec). More importantly, this initiative is a perfect example of the community benefits and cost savings that such an initiative can catalyze. The GMCF estimates that its own smaller programme of infrastructure, lease finance, and awareness building in total could help achieve as much $151m potential cost savings to Quebec’s health care system.
Moreover, school buses diffuse dangerous microparticulate across their routes and in school courtyards, with higher concentrations in cities and towns, and are known to cause dozens of early deaths and person-years of life lost annually in Quebec alone. The envisioned transformation would therefore help improve air quality across the province, and decrease the effects of pollution among students, bus drivers and the community at large. Lastly, the project also (indirectly) promises to open up jobs or career development opportunities as part of a larger movement that will promote existing electric bus and heavy vehicle assembly and regional manufacturing and value chains, while adding to local economic activity through the infrastructure improvements that the project will help build.
Enabling broad adoption of electric bus fleets
Propulsion Quebec is a government and industry-funded industrial cluster organisation focused on smart integration and electric vehicles in Quebec. Their goal is to support the electrification of bus school fleets by making accessible a digital guide to fleet operators in an effort to mitigate stress and insecurities, provide training resources and clarify the steps required for a smooth path to fleet decarbonization. The guide includes mapping the full value chain of electric school buses (from vehicle acquisition to usage and retirement), defining the governance structure, as well as planning the migration from a diesel to a zero-emission vehicle fleet.
The digital guide specifically targets less-resourced smaller-fleet owners to help build a favorable implementation and investment environment for electrification. In parallel, the GMCF will also leverage related initiatives and private investors that are already active with the intent to offer financing mechanisms for fleet purchase and the infrastructure needed to support the electrification of heavy vehicles. This will allow GMCF to play a role in catalyzing the needed transformation for the sector while learning more about transportation markets and actors to further develop relevant tools and supporting mechanisms.
True to LC3’s partnership approach, the GMCF’s contribution (of $20,000) to this project complements a broader coalition of multiple stakeholders across sectors, including Propulsion Quebec, the Trottier Family Foundation, the Fédération des travailleurs du Québec (FTQ) Fund, the Quebec Ministry of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change (MELCC), as well as bus fleet operators and planners.
Through this collaboration, the GMCF’s goal is to identify and support necessary changes at the systems level and catalyze an increase in early adopters of electric school bus technology to accelerate the transformation of the sector.