Wilson's tests electric bus on Victoria-Nanaimo route

Just in time for Earth Day, ­Wilson’s Transportation will launch an electric bus pilot project today for its Vancouver Island Connector and Tofino Bus operation.

The project is a partnership with China-based electric-vehicle giant BYD, and a step Wilson’s believes will be the first toward a zero-emission fleet strategy.

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The deal will see Wilson’s use a battery-powered Model C8M highway coach for the next three months on the route between Victoria and Nanaimo.

“It has always been our ­company’s plan to reduce our emissions and footprint, however, with the setback we have experienced through COVID, the high cost of replacing our fleet with electric vehicles seemed out of reach,” said Wilson’s chief executive John Wilson.

“This new partnership allows both companies to help do our part towards a ­sustainable future.”

The bus can accommodate 41 passengers, is powered by a 313-kWh battery and retails for $599,000, according to BYD Canada’s Ted Dowling.

Initial tests show the bus reduces 97 per cent of emissions versus a similar-size fossil-fuel-­powered bus.

Dowling said tour-bus ­companies like Wilson’s could replace their fossil-fuel buses with help from the province’s Specialty-Use Vehicle Incentive program.

Launched this year, the SUVI program offers rebates of up to $100,000 per vehicle to ­businesses buying medium and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles, although one obstacle for some businesses is lack of ready cash for a deposit on the vehicle, since they have not been operating during the pandemic. The province will only provide the rebate after the vehicles have been delivered.

Wilson’s goal is to eventually use electric buses on other routes.

“Our due diligence has shown us that electric buses work well on certain routes,” said Wilson. “With this knowledge, our team is working with Ted at BYD on a strategy that could see some of our other services moving to electric in the near future.”

Wilson’s operates a number of bus services, ­including links between ­Victoria, Vancouver and Vancouver ­airport, as well as ­connections between ­Victoria, Tofino and other Island ­communities, and between ­Vancouver and ­Whistler, Kelowna and ­Kamloops.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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