Canadian Urban Transit Research & Innovation Consortium
Canadian Urban Transit Research & Innovation Consortium
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Overcoming Zero-Emission Transit Challenges

Overcoming Zero-Emission Transit Challenges

Getting to zero through sustainable transit solutions

In the quest for a greener tomorrow, Canada is steering towards a transformative shift in its urban transportation landscape. The country wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and introduce sustainable transportation by using zero-emission buses.


Canada’s commitment to net zero by 2050 has spurred Canadian transit agencies in their journey to fleet electrification.


Yet, this journey is not without its share of obstacles. This article discusses the challenges of using ZEBs in Canada and explores innovative solutions that are transforming the transit industry.


Range Anxiety & Strategic Planning:

The fear of running out of battery power mid-route is a valid concern. An average range of a 40-foot bus is anywhere between 1.2 and 2.5 kWh/km. Proper planning of charging infrastructure needs and route optimization is needed to overcome range limitations.


Transit agencies should conduct in-depth feasibility analysis and predictive performance studies before starting their journey towards electrification to prevent range deficiencies. These studies use current data to predict bus performance on various routes and blockchains during different cycles. We use the data to forecast how buses will perform under different conditions. These studies also offer suggestions on optimal charging infrastructure type and placement.


Thermal Events and Battery Configurations:

Lithium-ion batteries are at risk of ‘thermal runaway’. Faulty battery cells cause this, which happens due to overheating, overcharging, or overvoltage. The United Nations Economic Commission (UNECE) recently introduced Regulation 107 to increase the safety of buses and coaches. However, this regulation doesn’t cover the electrical components of buses.


When it comes to ZEBs, ensuring passenger safety takes precedence. The specter of thermal events, with their scorching fires and overheating batteries, casts a shadow on the road ahead.

Fierce determination and relentless innovation have paved the way to safer battery configurations. Battery designs now boast improved cooling and ventilation, minimizing the risk of thermal events and enhancing passenger security.


Bus OEMs are making improvements every day on thermal and fire protection solutions in their battery configurations. These include fire warning systems and spot cooling. It is important for agencies who are procuring ZEBs to review the manufacturer’s fire protection mechanisms and preventative solutions.


Procurement Challenges and Bus Manufacturing Lead Times:

Procuring ZEBs is no ordinary feat. With limited production capacities and elongated manufacturing lead times, transit agencies face uphill battles in their quest for greener fleets. Electric buses are nearly twice as expensive as diesel buses when initially purchased. Additionally, transit agencies may incur infrastructure costs in the millions.


The Canadian government provides funding support through the Zero Emission Transit Fund for  zero-emission transit vehicle procurement. The CIB also provides low-interest loans to transit agencies for the procurement of zero-emission buses in Canada. Some bus manufacturers, including BYD offer electric bus leasing programs which could help offset the immediate cost of acquisition for transit agencies.


Production lead times on zero emissions have also proven to be quite challenging. In some cases, taking up to 18 months for production and delivery. Such delays could prevent agencies from meeting their climate action goals.To solve this problem, repowering or retrofitting is a good temporary solution. DTI and ZEV Clean Power offer services to convert diesel buses to a hydrogen fuel cell or electric power. This conversion can extend the lifespan of the buses by up to 6 years and costs a fraction of the price of a new electric bus.


Energy Management Services and Cutting-Edge Software:

Efficient energy management propels the wheels of ZEBs further, squeezing every ounce of power from their batteries. Enterprising minds have developed cutting-edge energy management systems and software solutions. These intelligent tools optimize battery utilization, track charging patterns, and forecast maintenance needs, enhancing operational efficiency and cost reduction.

PowerOn, Grand River, and Alectra provide a range of energy management services and software to transit agencies. They collaborate with local utility companies on behalf of the transit agency to  manage energy distribution. Their services include fleet planning, infrastructure management, service delivery, infrastructure maintenance, and data and energy distribution management. 


The final leg of Canada’s net-zero journey

Canadian transit agencies have many challenges in switching to zero-emission buses, but the country is determined to overcome them. Research by Transport Canada, NRC, and CUTRIC guides the use of ZEBs in transportation, providing valuable knowledge and expertise. Through thorough planning and thought leadership, transit agencies are able to overcome ZEB deployment challenges like range anxiety, battery safety, procurement issues, and energy management.


Canada aims for cleaner transportation with zero-emission buses, reducing emissions and improving the lives of Canadians. The road to sustainability may be winding, but the destination promises a brighter, greener future.


CUTRIC’s Zero Emission Transit & Mobility Conference

Join us for our 5th Annual Zero Emission Transit and Mobility Conference taking place at the Burlington Convention Centre from Oct 17-18, 2023.


Our expert panelists will be discussing zero emission transit workforce development, latest innovations in hydrogen fuel cell bus technology, roadmaps to full zero emission bus rollout plans, predictive vs empirical analysis results of a ZEB deployment, social impact consideration with ZEB deployment and more.


Visit our conference website here for more information and to register.


CUTRIC’s ZEB Consulting Services

CUTRIC’s Zero Emission Bus (ZEB) Consulting Services aims at helping transit agencies, utilities and other stakeholders reach their decarbonization and electrification goals. Our approach is backed by science and research. The services our consultants provide include:


  • Technology feasibility assessments
  • Full fleet ZEB implementation considering the current status of assets
  • Identified needs and associated costs
  • Benefits and risks assessments
  • Operational data analysis and validation


To find out more about how we can help, connect with our team.

See our 10 steps to begin your decarbonization journey.



CUTRIC is a non-profit innovation consortium with a mission to help Canadian transit agencies with solutions for cleaner and greener transportation. Our vision is to make Canada a global leader in low-carbon smart mobility. As a member of CUTRIC, you gain exclusive access to a full range of business and networking opportunities, technical planning events, conferences, and more! Connect with members, join today!