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Evidence of meeting #41 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 electric.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jean-Pierre Baracat  Vice-President, Business Development, Nova Bus, a Division of Volvo Group Canada, Inc.
René Allen  Vice-President , Product Management and Strategy, Business Development, Nova Bus, a Division of Volvo Group Canada, Inc.
Chris Stoddart  Vice-President of Engineering, New Flyer Industries Inc.

9:30 a.m.

Vice-President of Engineering, New Flyer Industries Inc.

Chris Stoddart

It depends, again, on the approach you take with batteries. Our one out of the gate has 120 kilowatt hours, which essentially means, in transit terms, about 80 kilometres or four hours worth of operation before it requires a charge.

If you want to recharge, it takes about five to maybe 10 minutes of charge time to get two hours of operation with a rapid charge.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

What about from Nova?

9:30 a.m.

Vice-President , Product Management and Strategy, Business Development, Nova Bus, a Division of Volvo Group Canada, Inc.

René Allen

We also have a 40-foot and it has over 100-kilometre autonomy, but it requires a lot of batteries. It's always a trade-off, the weight of batteries you carry and the autonomy you want.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

I'm a little intrigued by the conversation that we were having regarding....

The sense I was getting is that you wanted to see a regulation regarding what charging technology would go forward. I have a bit of a dilemma with that, because don't we kill innovation when we start to dictate at this point in time? You're saying that we're at this...different aspects, VHS, Beta, etc., and how do you, as government, regulate?

If this is the path we're going to go down and basically kill any other possibilities of charging systems, I have a bit of a dilemma with that and I'd love for you to explain that to me.

9:30 a.m.

Vice-President of Engineering, New Flyer Industries Inc.

Chris Stoddart

That's a great question.

9:30 a.m.

A Voice

What if you pick Beta?

9:30 a.m.

Vice-President of Engineering, New Flyer Industries Inc.

Chris Stoddart

Exactly.

I would agree with you. I don't think you want to do that now. Like I said, I think this is something that's going to be going on over a quarter-century, 25 years. I think we're going to all have to play in different areas and experiment, and see what works and what doesn't, and maybe it will be that some work great for some applications, and others may not.

I actually think that just by competition and whatever else, it will ultimately funnel down. It will almost self-regulate over time. I don't think you want to be imposing too much stuff right now. I agree with you.

9:30 a.m.

Vice-President , Product Management and Strategy, Business Development, Nova Bus, a Division of Volvo Group Canada, Inc.

René Allen

We could need help in getting to a standardization. It's difficult to look at what's important, what we should focus on, and then what we should standardize, and then go faster in the funnel maybe. The way to do that is to have different trials, to test stuff. That's pretty difficult. It's not every transit authority that can start that, so if we could have some help to have testing sites, testing different technologies, that would help. It would help also to have somebody like NRC, or people working and really thinking about standardization and helping us to focus, and helping our customers too.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

You're saying let the innovators still innovate but help with that process of innovation, not to give it direction and tell it which way the innovation has to go. I'd find it a real challenge to say to innovation that you have to innovate in this direction. I mean, they are the innovators, not us.

9:30 a.m.

Vice-President, Business Development, Nova Bus, a Division of Volvo Group Canada, Inc.

Jean-Pierre Baracat

That's right. Actually, one thing that you have to consider is not to limit innovation, but there are some things that will have to be standardized at some point. René was using the example earlier that if you had a different nozzle to fuel your car today, it would make it very difficult to go across Canada with your car. You wouldn't be able to fuel. So at some point there are some things that will have to be standardized.

In other words, the plug technology—things like that—those things will have to be quickly standardized so that we can actually work on the more important stuff of how we can maximize the power density, how we can best use that technology, and so on.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

One other question I have is on the European standardization that both of you talked about, the ability to have the same standards as in Europe. I have a bit of a question.

One of our last witnesses, actually from STM, was talking about how many manufacturers there are in Europe. They were actually pushing us to have that standardization because it allows them to deal with all those European companies, since there are so many of them compared to what we have in North America, in Canada especially, manufacturing buses.

Do you see it as a big help to you to have that ability, or are you really opening the door to a huge influx of competition that enables them to now bring their buses into Canada to compete against you?

9:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Business Development, Nova Bus, a Division of Volvo Group Canada, Inc.

Jean-Pierre Baracat

If I may, one thing we're seeing with the current technologies.... For instance, take diesel engines, for the moment we have new regulations that come up every three years and we deal with North America on the bus side because of the limited volume of buses. One thing that you have to realize is that the whole market for buses is about 6,000 buses a year. That's all of North America for transit buses. When you compare that to the automotive industry, one plant will produce hundreds of thousands of units, so it's really not the same order of magnitude. For us to certify an engine for only that bus becomes prohibitive, so what happens is that we have to deal with one single manufacturer in North America that provides us with an engine. We don't have a choice. That's the only one.

For instance, in the Volvo group there's a whole bunch of different engines that we could be using that have different certifications, like your certifications, and we can't even bring those into Canada and use them on our products. A bus manufacturer is more of an integrator of systems.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

You kind of have a double-edged sword there and I want to ask whether you've really looked at both aspects of it, because you're right, it allows you to bring this engine over, but it also allows them to bring their whole bus with that engine over here, too.

9:35 a.m.

Vice-President of Engineering, New Flyer Industries Inc.

Chris Stoddart

What we find on the bus side today is that, when you talk about bringing the whole bus over, the barriers to entry are certainly significant in the United States. That would probably prohibit somebody bringing their bus over, simply because of Buy America alone, unless they set up manufacturing facilities. It may be less so in Canada, but the rules and regulations in terms of the other dimensions and such on a bus are still significant enough between Europe and Canada. For that matter, it's still a challenge, plus the freight costs. It's still pretty hard to be competitive.

I kind of agree with the comments on the propulsion side. It's a problem that there's one guy. One person supplies all transit buses today and everyone else is evacuated. A second, Navistar, is coming on, but today it's just Cummins. So the ability to have different propulsion options, as long as we weren't testing and having to certify everything for emissions, I think wouldn't be a problem.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Thank you.

Mr. Carmichael.

June 5th, 2012 / 9:35 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Thank you, Chair, and good morning to the witnesses.

I'd like to continue with my colleague's comments because I'm a little unsure. When you talk about the harmonization with Europe and creating a common set of standards, I understand the volume of business in Canada and doing business with the U.S. Are you dependent at all on exports to Europe or is this strictly the importation of product and technology, parts, etc.?

Let's start with Mr. Stoddart and then go to Volvo.

9:35 a.m.

Vice-President of Engineering, New Flyer Industries Inc.

Chris Stoddart

Today we don't. Our company doesn't export anything.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

It's strictly North America.

9:35 a.m.

Vice-President of Engineering, New Flyer Industries Inc.

Chris Stoddart

It's strictly North America today, yes.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Thank you.

Mr. Baracat.

9:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Business Development, Nova Bus, a Division of Volvo Group Canada, Inc.

Jean-Pierre Baracat

It's the same for us. Even though we are part of the Volvo Group, as Chris mentioned earlier, the products are different enough that the European products don't fit the North American operation profile.

Let me make it a little clearer from our perspective. We're looking especially at the engine now and at the emission standards, to be able to use European emission standards in Canada, for instance. That would be the first and easiest step, let's put it this way.

We know we're not going to get the U.S. to accept those standards, although there are talks, but we know those are going to be long-term talks to standardize the emission requirements on both sides of the pond.

In the short term, we're asking to have the ability to use engines, for instance, that are being produced elsewhere in the world, and in the longer term to support the efforts that are going to be made with the U.S. and Canada and the European Commission to try to standardize.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

You talked earlier about bus rapid transit and the larger units that would travel down those dedicated lanes, etc. I presume that will be adaptable to smaller units as well. Do you see that as being exclusively battery or will it be a combination or not even battery?

9:40 a.m.

Vice-President , Product Management and Strategy, Business Development, Nova Bus, a Division of Volvo Group Canada, Inc.

René Allen

For BRT?

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Yes.

9:40 a.m.

Vice-President , Product Management and Strategy, Business Development, Nova Bus, a Division of Volvo Group Canada, Inc.

René Allen

Today's internal combustion engine works well in the BRT. Any propulsion solution you're going to take will benefit from the BRT.

So going at a faster pace with fewer stops—stop and go—and travelling with a lot of people.... Of course today if you want to have a high rate of transportation, the combustion engine is the only solution, but even an electric bus would benefit from that. I think both our companies are making a big stride in having a 40-foot electric bus. But thinking about the high-capacity electric bus, today we're not there because of the capacity.