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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.

9:40 a.m.

Vice-President of Engineering, New Flyer Industries Inc.

Chris Stoddart

In my opinion, what's going to entice a rider today to take bus rapid transit is that it has to be on time, it has to be faster than taking an automobile, and it has to be reliable. You want to know that it's going to get you where you have to go.

Today, with the state of the art from a propulsion perspective, diesel buses are there from a reliability perspective. Battery-electrics are new, and we're going to have some speed bumps and some teething issues getting through those issues, so I think you'll see bus rapid transit start out with something that's tried and true. Diesels, or hybrids are now mature, but there's no reason this wouldn't migrate to batteries over time.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

The urban application, though, would be the one that would move more aggressively to the battery operation?

9:40 a.m.

Vice-President of Engineering, New Flyer Industries Inc.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

And similarly for Volvo.

Yes, sir?

9:40 a.m.

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

Jean-Pierre Baracat

If I may, the BRT solution is the reason that we're bringing this up with the current products. If we use our current products in a BRT solution, that's already quite an improvement because we're going to reduce emissions. We're going to transfer people faster. Because I know there's a lot of pressure on the funds available to promote public transit. The costs of setting up the BRT are about 20 times less than for a rail project.

If we use buses in an efficient way, it's a very good solution to transporting large numbers of people in and out of cities.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

From what I've heard this morning—and this is my first exposure to this discussion—am I correct in assuming that your vision of where the fuel alternatives are going to take you is still that it is going to be a fairly broad selection of combinations for the next number of years?

You mentioned 25 years, Mr. Stoddart or Mr. Allen, with regard to that timeline, before we have enough efficiency of one fuel or another that we're going to narrow that funnel down, but it sounds to me as if this is going to be a combination of fuels that is going to last quite a long while yet—whether it's diesel, electric, CNG, or battery operated.

9:40 a.m.

Vice-President of Engineering, New Flyer Industries Inc.

Chris Stoddart

That's a great question. I think definitely for the foreseeable future, you're going to see diesel and CNG for the internal combustion engine, and the big question is how quickly the adoption rate is going to be there on battery-electric.

I believe you'll see a fairly significant percentage in a decade, something sizable. I don't know if that's going to be 20% or 25%.

You guys might feel different. I'm not sure.

9:40 a.m.

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

Jean-Pierre Baracat

Actually, René mentioned it earlier. What we're seeing is that the internal combustion engine is going to be smaller and smaller as we go forward, and that's probably the path we're going to see. We have hybrids already today. We'll have hybrids with smaller engines. We'll have plug-in hybrids, so a bigger capacity for batteries that will allow more use of the electric propulsion system, and as we move forward, that engine is going to be smaller and smaller until it disappears totally.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Going back to an earlier question—I'm jumping around a bit here—with regard to the battery solution, I'm trying to get a better handle on what you would be asking of us or what your recommendation to us would be. Mr. Allen, you said that charging standards are going to be important in terms of where we go here.

From an electric battery perspective, I'm wondering if there is a way that government can support industry with a more common platform or set of standards that tend to commonize the platform, which reduces cost and helps to create greater efficiency, if you like, without going to the Beta-VHS example that was used earlier.

You mentioned the units at gas stations across the country, but are there enough similarities or enough issues that we can be a help to that?

9:45 a.m.

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

René Allen

Do you mean turbocharging or the batteries themselves?

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

I mean all of those things.

9:45 a.m.

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

René Allen

As I said, if we don't want to kill innovation, it's about being able to have demonstration testing and having some help to make sure that—in this country—we go quickly in the funnelling and get to what the best solution is that will fit everybody, so we can benefit from that in a relatively short time.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Thank you.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Is that my time?

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Regrettably.

Mr. Aubin.

June 5th, 2012 / 9:45 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I will probably share my time with Mr. Sullivan.

Thank you to the witnesses for being with us. We have been receiving guests for a number of weeks as we look into the technologies of the future. The thing that most impressed me this morning was said by Mr. Allen. In fact, bus rapid transit is something we can already use, but we probably don't do it enough. I was stunned to learn how much greenhouse gases can be reduced with the measures you propose.

I come from a mid-sized city, Trois-Rivières, which has about 135,000 residents. It is big enough to have public transit, but it doesn't have the population density to have truly efficient public transit.

In your opinion, should our contribution to decreasing greenhouse gases be from bus rapid transit technologies, or the purchase or the renewal of the fleet with hybrid buses?

9:45 a.m.

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

René Allen

I am familiar with Trois-Rivières, the people who lead it and the bus fleet. In the case of Trois-Rivières, I don't think bus rapid transit would be a good solution, because the city doesn't have the population density. I think work should focus more on vehicles and emissions as such.

Furthermore, some of the characteristics of bus rapid transit could be used to improve the average speed of buses, for example, the preemption of traffic lights, lights that change when the bus needs to go through, systems for people to get on and off the bus quickly, and payment outside the bus rather than lining up to get on.

Consequently, bus rapid transit is part of the solution. All of these advantages allow for a decrease in consumption and emissions.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Thank you.

My second question is for all of our guests.

We talked a few times about the comparison between Beta, VHS and Blu-ray formats. Of the charging technologies currently on the market, is there one that is more advanced?

With other contests in history, we already knew which would win. Even if we preferred the Beta format, we already knew that the VHS format would win out. Is there really a technology that, to date, stands out from the others?

9:45 a.m.

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

René Allen

No, not currently. Now, it's about the first ones that were put into service. Since they are the first ones, everyone looks at them because they are available. No, we aren't seeing any getting ahead of the others. There are different very good ideas. They have to be implemented to see how they really work.

9:45 a.m.

Vice-President of Engineering, New Flyer Industries Inc.

Chris Stoddart

I have very similar comments, at least on the electric stuff. We're new enough into it ourselves that essentially we did a bit of a diligence on our suppliers, and we've gone with one for now. I think we have to experience some others just to see who's ahead.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Thank you.

Mr. Sullivan.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Very quickly, the bus rapid transit systems seem to lend themselves to trolley operations, but why aren't they? Why are electric buses not the norm on a stand-alone bus rapid transit system, and where are supercapacitors in that mix?

9:45 a.m.

Vice-President of Engineering, New Flyer Industries Inc.

Chris Stoddart

When I hear the term “trolley”, I'm always thinking overhead—

9:50 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Overhead wires.

9:50 a.m.

Vice-President of Engineering, New Flyer Industries Inc.

Chris Stoddart

—and those are infrastructure requirements. People won't put overhead wires in for something new going forward.

But if your question was more on BRT and why battery-electrics wouldn't be more prominent, and about the technology between capacitors and batteries—