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Evidence of meeting #39 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was bus.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Étienne Lyrette  Corporate Advisor, Governmental Affairs, External Relations and Strategic Planning, Société de transport de Montréal
Serge Carignan  Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport
François Chamberland  Director , Engineering Service, Operation, Société de transport de Montréal

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

That is purely bureaucratic, a little like what the United States is doing with natural gas, in particular. Shouldn't we create a secretariat that would report to Transport Canada and that could rely solely on those regulations? Would that be a good idea?

9:25 a.m.

Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport

Serge Carignan

That would be a very good idea. I did not mention that European standards have been adopted in South America and Asia. We can virtually say that the rest of the world is adopting those standards. A large volume of the buses produced in Brazil meet European standards. That would open the door to a promising market, in addition to improving the competitiveness of our suppliers in this country relative to other suppliers.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Do you have the IACO standards? For ground transportation, could this situation be an opportunity for an international treaty as well, since we are not far from it? We can think of the United Nations. Is that kind of thing conceivable? I imagine that is being talked about.

9:30 a.m.

Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport

Serge Carignan

Not only is it feasible, but it would also be easy because the standards are very similar. It would not be difficult to put forward that kind of proposition since a committee could examine the matter.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

So to help you with electric vehicles, for example, it is appropriate to recommend that our committee give priority to the issue of equipment standards.

9:30 a.m.

Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport

Serge Carignan

Absolutely.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

That's good.

Representatives of other municipalities have come to see us and have talked about natural gas. Quebec, as a society, has chosen electricity. However, there is natural gas. Have you done any studies on vehicles powered by natural gas? What is your opinion, particularly with regard to greenhouse gases? We are told this is the best invention since sliced bread.

9:30 a.m.

Director , Engineering Service, Operation, Société de transport de Montréal

François Chamberland

Yes, before selecting electrification and even before the provincial government announced its objective of electrifying public transit, we did our homework. So we studied buses with hydrogen fuel batteries, buses powered by natural gas and all kinds of other buses. I will spare you the list; I do not need to talk about that. For buses powered by gas fuels, such as natural gas or hydrogen, especially natural gas, Montreal commissioned studies from the École polytechnique de Montréal. When we study the full energy cycle of the bus, it ranges from the well to the wheel; it is utilization and everything else. According to those studies, natural gas produces the most greenhouse gas, much more than even the gas-hybrid buses currently being used. When we consider that in relation to electric buses and trolleybuses, which are powered by very clean Quebec hydroelectricity, there is no comparison. Natural gas produces four times more greenhouse gas. That is the case for Montreal.

Another problem caused by buses running on natural gas and hydrogen is that they run on fuel that is lighter than air. That means we would not be able to put them in our garages because of electrical code compliance issues. This means we would have to maintain those buses outdoors or in new buildings constructed in accordance with much stricter safety standards than what we have now.

Furthermore, the large fleets of natural gas buses that we have seen are located in countries with much warmer climates than ours, where they can be left outdoors at night and can even be refuelled outdoors. I have even seen people maintain them outdoors. Modifying our infrastructure to suit those kinds of buses would involve a very significant investment for us. As I mentioned to you, for natural gas buses in Montreal, we would wind up with more greenhouse gas than we have today. That is why the STM has clearly chosen electricity for Montreal.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Is there a technology for trolleybuses? There is obviously the wire syndrome. It is a matter not just of expanding the roads, but also of being stuck with the wires. Have you looked into the matter or checked to see whether there were other technologies, such as magnetic energy, for example, or something else? Do we really need wires? If there were a plate underneath the trolley, could that do?

9:30 a.m.

Director , Engineering Service, Operation, Société de transport de Montréal

François Chamberland

With trolleybuses, the wires are a very serious issue. Unfortunately, induction, magnetic and other technologies are mainly applied to tramways, and that is very recent even in that case. We are still talking about demonstration projects; this is not really in service. For trolleybuses, it must be understood that a trolleybus is not guided. The driver drives the vehicle. It is difficult to align the plate and the sensor.

No similar technology is available today, and there is not even one being demonstrated or tested. Our induction demonstration project is the closest thing to it. It must be understood that the bus must stop on the plate and stay over it for several minutes in order to recharge. This is entirely incompatible with what we want to do with the trolleybuses, which is to move people quickly. We do not want to stop to recharge; we want to stop, let people off, let people on and leave.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Merci.

Mr. Richards.

May 29th, 2012 / 9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good morning, my friends. Thank you for your presentations today.

I would like to first delve a little further into some of the regulatory barriers that you are suggesting exist to our being able to bring the fully electric model into Canada.

You mentioned earlier something about how there was a one-year rule in terms of the trial. I am still a little unclear on that. Can you tell me exactly what that barrier is? Can you explain that a little further to me?

9:35 a.m.

Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport

Serge Carignan

To import a vehicle and to be able to put the plates on it and use it on a daily basis, you need to meet the CMVSS standards. These vehicles do not comply with the CMVSS. These vehicles have different lengths, angles, whatnot, and different security measures that may be equivalent but not exactly the same. So they can't be used on a regular, daily basis. If you were to purchase more than one vehicle, even keeping them one year would not be possible.

But since we're asking for one, two or three buses, depending on the project, we're permitted to keep that bus for the duration of one year. That's a derogation that we're asking for and we have special permission for that.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

But where's that through? Is it Transport Canada?

9:35 a.m.

Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport

Serge Carignan

It's Transport Canada that mandates this.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

What specific section, rule, or regulation is that?

9:35 a.m.

Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport

Serge Carignan

It's the Canadian motor vehicle safety standards that have to apply. You can't buy a European car if it doesn't meet the safety standards. So European carmakers sell thousands of buses here so they can modify their vehicle to comply with the CMVSS. But if we're purchasing a hundred buses, a lot of engineering has to go into them to meet the standards. That's why it's not done in cars.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Okay.

So essentially, what you're suggesting or asking for is an exemption from that rule when looking at trials, or something to that effect?

9:35 a.m.

Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport

Serge Carignan

We'd like to purchase these vehicles. For one year it's not worth the million dollars that an electric vehicle might cost. They produce a lot of electric buses in Asia, Japan, and Korea, but to European standards, because the Europeans are most likely to purchase these vehicles in the near future. If we want to purchase them, they comply with European standards and not North American standards, and so we can't import them and use them for a reasonable number of years. These vehicles have to be kept for at least seven or eight years to make the original purchase cost worthwhile.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

I'm always interesting in hearing ways that government can help to allow the adoption of new technologies and things.

Can you tell me any other hurdles or barriers that are put up by the government, or regulations that you feel need to be changed or tweaked in any way? Just tell me anything else that you can suggest that maybe we could do to help remove some of the barriers that exist for you.

9:35 a.m.

Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport

Serge Carignan

Certainly we lack funding right now to do these projects. There is no funding for public transit work. We've discussed the fact that financing is looked at on a provincial basis. Why is that? It is because there's no federal money to help us, so we have to analyze it on a provincial basis.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

I have to interrupt you there. Certainly over the last few years, through the economic action plan, there's been all kinds of federal investment in transit in this country, despite the fact that it's not really a federal jurisdiction. So I would have to disagree with you on that.

But what I was asking you specifically is whether there are any regulatory barriers or hurdles—you know those types of things—that we can address to help you to be able to adopt these technologies. That's the question I was asking.

9:35 a.m.

Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport

Serge Carignan

The regulatory measures are our biggest hurdle right now. We'd like to attract foreign companies to invest in building buses here, or to help us by bringing the technology that they have abroad. If there could be any type of encouragement to do that, that would also help us.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Can you give me specific examples?

9:40 a.m.

Director, Engineering and Technical Services, Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport

Serge Carignan

Well, there were three Canadian bus manufacturers. There are now two. It's not a Toyota, it's not a big brand, so they don't have millions of dollars to invest in developing these technologies. They're forced to do little projects and try, as best they can, to get together an electric bus. But it's nothing like dealing with what we have abroad, where big companies are making them.