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Calgary secures $165 million loan to charge up their electric bus fleet

The City of Calgary and the Canada Infrastructure Bank have sealed the deal on a $165 million loan to help with the purchase of up to 259 electric buses.

The sides announced the close of the investment in the zero-emission buses on Wednesday. It’s part of a $491 million plan to add the buses by 2027. The city will also be kicking in $100 million. Calgary still needs to secure an additional $220 million in grants.

Right now, the city has 750, 40-foot buses in their fleet. Roughly 130 of those are compressed natural gas. There are also 63, 90-foot diesel buses. The new buses would be replacing diesel-powered buses, not compressed natural gas ones.

“We are proud to partner with the City of Calgary to help increase access to sustainable, modern public transportation,” said Ehren Cory, CEO of the Canada Infrastructure Bank.

“By investing $165 million towards 259 zero-emission buses, the CIB is accelerating Calgary’s path to net-zero and is enabling cleaner public transportation for future generations.”

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek told the media on Wednesday that she hopes the city can get a move on with the new buses on the street.

“I’m really hopeful that we can expedite this process,” the mayor said.

“We have moved from straight diesel buses to compressed natural gas. This is just another move to diversify our fleet. And I hope it’s a quick one.”

Mayor Gondek said the terms of the deal and the interest rate weren’t something she could talk about at this time. She said the loan would be paid back over time by the savings that are realized through the reduction in operating costs with zero-emission buses.

Transition takes time

Calgary Transit embarked on the zero-emission strategy in earnest back in 2020, when a funding agreement was signed with Emissions Reduction Alberta to introduce zero-emissions buses to certain routes in the city.

They’re putting together a pilot project that is set to begin with the delivery of 14 electric battery shuttle buses (28 feet, 22 passengers) this spring, according to the Calgary Transit website.  That bus contract was awarded to Vicinity Motor Corp.

It also meant that bus charging infrastructure had to be added to the Spring Gardens garage in 2022.

It’s a process that takes time, Mayor Gondek said.

“It shows that we are a city that’s progressive, that’s moving to create a fleet that’s got several different types of vehicles in it,” she said.

“I’d like to point out that it demonstrates that transition takes place over time. A complete transformation is impossible without having transitional steps. And this is a really good example of that.”

The mayor didn’t have any additional information on any other grants that may be accessed to fund the bus purchase.

It’s not clear when the new buses would be available. The Vicinity contract for the pilot project was awarded in June 2021, and those buses are expected sometime in spring 2023.