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B.C. Transit sending back loaner electric bus as it looks for new supplier

Proterra previously won a $20-million contract to provide B.C. Transit with 10 electric buses for the capital region this fall, but has filed for bankruptcy protection
B.C. Transit has been using the loaned electric bus since last year. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

B.C. Transit is sending back a loaned demonstration electric bus it’s been using on a trial basis in the capital region, as it extends its request for companies to provide more such buses.

Proterra, a California company, had previously won a $20-million contract to provide B.C. Transit with 10 electric buses for the capital region this fall.

But Proterra filed for bankruptcy protection and was acquired by Phoenix Motors of North Carolina. Phoenix and B.C. Transit could not reach a new agreement to supply the buses, sending the corporation out to the market again.

While the loaner bus will be returned to its manufacturer, the transit system has accumulated “thousands of kilometres of experience” with the demo bus, which provided performance testing and training opportunities, B.C. Transit spokesman Jamie Weiss said Wednesday. B.C. Transit is now better prepared to integrate future electric buses into its fleet, Weiss said.

The Crown corporation’s goal is to have a fully electric fleet by 2040. To that end, it’s continuing to seek suppliers to prequalify to supply 40-foot-long heavy-duty electric transit buses, with no immediate closing date.

The electric bus prequalification was first posted in October 2023 and has been reposted so B.C. Transit can maintain an active prequalification process, Weiss said.

It will remain live on bidding information sites so new suppliers can submit proposals to become a prequalified supplier, he said.

“When and if we need to procure buses, the request for quotes or proposals would go to the prequalified suppliers.”

For several months, B.C. Transit has been working to move the electric bus program forward, Weiss said.

The organization released procurement requests in 2023 to prequalify more vendors to support the heavy-duty electric bus deployments, charging equipment, and major electrical equipment for the first phase of the electrification program.

In July 2023, B.C. Transit announced it would purchase up to 115 battery-electric buses and install 134 charging points around the province, thanks to an almost $400-million joint investment by the provincial and federal governments.

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