Welcome everybody to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. This is meeting number 39. We have some committee business at the top of our orders.
When we left the meeting the last time, there was a motion by Ms. Michaud and an amendment proposed by Ms. Chow. We are now debating the amendment, which says that the motion be amended by deleting the words “and obtain approval from municipal and provincial governments before the development of a new aerodrome is formally considered”.
I had a list of speakers prepared. I had Monsieur Aubin and then Mr. Poilievre. We finished with Monsieur Coderre, so I'll open the floor to Monsieur Aubin.
I will try to be brief so that we can have the benefit of our guests as long as possible.
From the outset, I would like to tell you what the problem is for me. One thing we often hear, and that we heard again at our last meeting, is that the motion should be disposed of quickly because it would slow economic development.
Nothing in the amendment or motion would establish conditions that would slow economic development in any region of Canada whatsoever. In fact, what we are seeking with the motion and the amendment is instead to harmonize the various areas of citizens' lives. Although economic life is important, it is not the only criterion determining the quality of life of a citizen in a region.
What is the point of investing in urban development and infrastructure plans that provide for land use plans, if a single player can thwart everyone's efforts at every turn? That is really the purpose of the motion we are debating this morning. The Supreme Court has previously held that federal legislation takes precedence over Quebec's Act respecting the Preservation of Agricultural Land.
Landing strips are rarely built in the mountains. Consequently, we constantly encroach on potential agricultural lands, which are becoming increasingly scarce, whereas they must feed a constantly growing population. It is fine to work miracles in order to increase and intensify agricultural production, but the fact remains that agricultural lands must be preserved.
Not all flatlands are necessarily agricultural lands. We believe it is essential to comply with the various legislatures, the various levels of government, municipal, provincial and federal. Those levels of government should harmonize their legislation to promote sound economic development and to enable every sector to develop.
The mayor of my city might not be very proud if I called Trois-Rivières a small city. It is a large city of 125,000 to 135,000 inhabitants, which has an airport and where there is a significant amount of aerospace development. Just this past weekend, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Trois-Rivières' airport. There was an open house at Aviatech, Premier Aviation and Nadeau Air Service. All the businesses at the airport were open to citizens. Here again, we see a development model in which we have managed to harmonize citizens' needs with economic development. We believe this is entirely possible.
I had a bit of fun reading the Aeronautics Act, since I am quite new to this committee, and I discovered that section 4.9 states the following: "The Governor in Council may make regulations respecting aeronautics and...may make regulations respecting..." It contains the word "may", which means that action may be taken. Paragraph (e) of that section states that regulations may be made respecting "activities at aerodromes and the location, inspection, certification, registration, licensing and operation of aerodromes." So action may be taken respecting location.
There is no "not in my backyard" syndrome here. We are not saying that aerodromes should not be built. We are saying that, when an aerodrome is developed, the various municipal, provincial and federal stakeholders could consult each other to find a better location that would allow for the most balanced development possible.
That is not just the gist, but also the primary objective of this motion, which I hope will be supported by the largest possible number, indeed the majority.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Chow, please. The decision of the chair has been challenged. It is immediately votable so I will ask the committee to decide.
Shall the chair's ruling stand?
All those in favour?
(Ruling of the chair sustained [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: We'll now move to the vote on the motion of Mr. Poilievre that we adjourn debate.
An hon. member: A recorded vote, please.
The Chair: A recorded vote has been requested.
(Motion agreed to: yeas 6; nays 5)
Welcome to our guests joining us today. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are studying innovative transportation technologies.
Joining us from the Société de transport de Montréal, we have François Chamberland, director of engineering service, operations; and Étienne Lyrette, corporate advisor, governmental affairs. From the Société de gestion et d'acquisition de véhicules de transport, we have Serge Carignan, director.
Welcome, gentlemen, and thank you for your patience. I know you have a presentation, and then we'll move to questions and answers.
Good morning, everyone. Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you. It is very much appreciated.
Allow me to begin with a brief presentation by the Société de transport de Montréal, the STM.
The STM is the 14th largest business in Quebec. It has more than 9,000 employees and an annual budget of over $1.6 billion. It is quite an elaborate public transit network with 4 metro lines, 68 stations, 759 metro cars, 209 bus routes and more than 1,700 buses. There are 1.2 million passenger trips per day. The STM is thus a major carrier not only in Quebec, but in Canada as well.
All transit authorities in Quebec have opted for electrification. There are eight other transit authorities apart from the STM. The STM's bus fleet represents one-half of transit vehicles in Quebec. If you multiply the STM's figures by two you will have a good idea of what is going on in the province.
We have opted for electricity because electricity is reliable in Quebec. There is an abundance of hydroelectric power. Electricity is also affordable. However, one of the main reasons is that Quebec's electricity is clean because more than 95% of it is generated by hydroelectric means.
A bus uses nearly 40,000 litres of fuel a year. That represents approximately 200 million litres for the Quebec fleet annually. We can consider the current cost of gasoline, but that amounts to a budget of more than $200 million. We want to reduce that dependence and prevent money from being taken out of our pockets and going outside the province, and outside Canada most of the time. It costs one-fifteenth of that amount to run a vehicle, a car or a bus, on electricity rather than on oil.
We also have greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, as the provincial government has stated: 20% by 2020 based on the 1990 figures. We want 95% of the transit vehicle fleet to be electric. Montreal's metro is already 100% electric. Consequently, 50% of passenger trips are already made possible by electricity, but we would like to increase that figure to 95% by 2030.
The STM has set its own objectives in order to achieve that target. The STM's objective is to acquire only zero-emission vehicles, but by 2025. That means that the standard bus that the STM buys in 2025 will be 100% electric and will recharge overnight and be in service all day, achieving, we hope, the same performance as the diesel buses we operate today. Performance is very important. If our buses perform at a lower level, we need more buses, drivers and depots, as a result of which operating costs are much higher. This is something that a transit company the size of Montreal's cannot really absorb.
The public transit of tomorrow will definitely be electric in Montreal by 2025. Electric buses performing to current standards are not yet available, but we have a plan to get there. We have six projects, and that is what I am going to present to you.
We have already changed the standard STM bus. In 2012, the standard bus runs on up to 5% biodiesel. All transit authorities have signed a contract for a group purchase of hybrid buses over a four-year period starting in 2013. Why a hybrid bus? We have taken advantage of a federal program, the Urban Transportation Showcase program, to test hybrid vehicles in cooperation with our colleagues from Gatineau. That is the bus that appears in the photograph. We have been able to compare the performance of this hybrid bus with that of our standard buses.
We have measured fuel savings of 30% in our actual operations in Montreal. Based on our current fuel cost, we will be able to recover our investment by the end of the buses' economic life, which is 16 years. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption, we will ultimately save a little money. The four-year contract, which will be awarded very soon, covers 1,000 buses for all of Quebec's transit authorities.
We also have another project to introduce electric midibuses in Montreal. Midibuses are a little smaller, 9 metres long instead of 12. They are smaller because current batteries do not perform as well. We cannot have an electric 12-metre bus that performs to the desired level. So we are going with smaller buses. With these buses, we cannot engage in massive public transit on very busy routes. We are targeting tourist routes. Initially, they will be the Old Port in Old Montreal and then Mont-Royal park and places like that.
The STM has ordered seven midibuses. The contract has been awarded, and our call for tenders was of course public. That is part of the problem we want to speak to you about this morning. We received only one bid. A single company is interested in supplying us with electric buses: DesignLine, in the United States. After conducting some checks, we awarded it the contract. For the STM, this is our first experience with electric buses. We will learn a lot about operations, maintenance and engineering. Of course, we will share all we learn with the other transit authorities interested, in both Quebec and Canada.
We cannot achieve the target set by the provincial government, which is to have 95% of passenger trips by electric public transport by 2030, using the smaller buses that I showed you. The heavy traffic is not on the tourist routes, but rather on the major routes. We have two projects addressing the major routes where there are a lot of people, where we have to go fast, where we have to move a lot of people.
The purpose of the first project is to reintroduce trolleybuses to Montreal. We have a study under way. We are looking at three very busy main lines in Montreal and some 100 articulated buses with increased capacity. The trolleybus is an completely proven technology. Today some 40,000 trolleybuses are operating on roads around the world, in snow, on ice and in the mountains, without any problem. This is really not a technological challenge. The challenge, of course, is to convince the city's urban planners to add routes, but we are working very hard on that. We are convinced the public will be very receptive to these buses.
The next project concerns a slightly heavier mode of transportation than trolleybuses. And it is intended for busier routes. It is a tramway system. The City of Montreal and the STM are partners on this one. The objective is to reintroduce tramways to the streets of Montreal. The studies have been completed. We are talking about three tramway lines. The City of Montreal is currently looking for funding. This is quite an expensive project.
We are future-oriented. This is not just about midibuses and trolleybuses: we have to think of all our other bus routes. We have a project under way with our partners, Nova Bus and Bombardier. The idea is to recharge a 12-metre electric bus, a standard bus for the STM, by induction, that is to say without contact. That is what you see in the picture. This is in fact very simple: a plate generates an electromagnetic field when the bus is above it, and a plate under the bus captures the energy without making contact. This is what we want to test. It is really a research and development project. This technology is currently raising more questions than it answers, but we are confident. If it works, and we hope it does, it will help offset current battery performance deficiencies and enable us to put 12-metre electric buses into circulation long before 2025.
The STM still calculates its greenhouse gas emissions by displacement. We take into account not only bus emissions, but also those associated with our buildings and service vehicles. According to a new STM policy, every time we have to replace a service vehicle, whether it be a car, a truck, a van or a special vehicle that operates in the metro at night, we conduct very serious market research to find an appropriate electric vehicle. As you can see, we recently bought a number of Chevrolet Volts. We try to find electric vehicles in every case.
There are also projects at transit corporations other than Montreal's. The nine transit authorities have joined forces and are sharing in all the projects. The people from the Laval authority have bought a fully-electric 40-foot bus and are waiting for delivery. In Quebec City, under the urban transportation showcase program, which the federal government has subsidized, they have bought seven electric microbuses, which are now in operation in Old Quebec. In addition, a project to convert a hybrid vehicle to a plug-in-type electric vehicle is being considered by the Longueuil transit system.
There are no electric bus manufacturers in Canada, and that is really a problem. Some are currently conducting research and development, but, generally speaking, there is no supply in this area in Canada. Supply is very limited even in North America. As we mentioned, in a recent call for bids, only one bidder expressed interest in manufacturing that type of vehicle. Foreign manufacturers are also not very interested in coming to North America because regulations pose numerous challenges for them. In the United States, transit authorities tend not to opt for electricity. Instead they look at natural gas and other substitute products. As electricity is not always produced cleanly, it does not necessarily represent a major advantage. The cost of electricity in the United States and elsewhere in Canada is quite high, and, in many cases, it is produced using fossil fuels.
I told you there were a number of manufacturers in Europe and Asia. However, it is difficult to buy small quantities of these vehicles as a result of regulations. For example, if we want to test four or five vehicles, it is not cost-effective for a foreign manufacturer to provide us with that kind of product on that kind of scale. There will be other challenges when we want hundreds, and that will cause other problems. North American regulations are different from those in Europe and elsewhere, and this is a challenge that we constantly have to overcome.
As previously mentioned, some federal programs have produced results in the past. The urban transportation showcase made it possible for us to evaluate the hybrid buses. Consequently, in our next call for bids, we will buy 500 hybrid buses with an option for 500 more. In other words, this program has produced positive results. The fact that seven electric buses could be tested in Quebec City has opened the door to this technology. This enables us to look into the future and to consider using a vehicle of this kind. In short, financial support has produced results in the past, and I believe the same kind of support will be necessary to enable us to move forward.
Our recommendations are similar to those already stated by my colleague. To provide some assistance in the transition to a fleet of electric buses or, as necessary, a fleet of electric vehicles, the idea would be to facilitate the importing of foreign technologies, at least in the short or medium terms. To be able to conduct trials and pilot projects, an effort should be made to address the issues of standards and compliance with the countries with which we might be doing business.
Support should obviously be provided for the electric transit file through research and development and showcase programs. This is the third time we have mentioned this, but an initiative like the urban transportation showcase program is a very big success story. A technology has been developed and we now see the actual results that has produced. We have taken part in the development of a Canadian industrial sector and we are now buying hybrid buses. These programs are not necessarily financially significant on the scale of the Government of Canada, but they are really promising and have had very positive consequences for both the environment and from an economic and social standpoint.
On a slightly larger scale, transit projects should be eligible for the next infrastructure program. We know the federal government is reviewing its building Canada plan and that public transit was an eligible category in that program. That helped support a number of projects across the country. We would obviously like public transit to remain an eligible category in the next version of the program, which is scheduled for 2014.
Thank you for your attention and for allowing us to share our views with you.
Good morning, gentlemen. Thank you for your presentation. I hope this will encourage you to make a quick switch to these technologies of the future. However, I admit I initially thought, that's it, we will be adopting these electric vehicles very soon, but the more I listened to you, the more I saw the barriers to establishing a full fleet.
If possible, I would like you to tell us about this regulatory flexibility you are seeking that would enable us to import technologies from countries that are clearly ahead of us. I am thinking of certain European countries, for example. Could you give us some examples of the barriers you are facing?
For motors, Canada relies on U.S. regulations. In the case of city buses, a single manufacturer in North America manufactures an eligible motor for public transit purposes. There is competition in Europe: five or six manufacturers build motors that meet European standards. If you compare European standards to those in North America, you can say that, when a North American standard is established, it is more restrictive, but that the European standard subsequently exceeds it. They follow each other and, year after year, seem quite similar to the average person. If we accepted a European standard, we would see that a bus in Paris is not that different from a bus in Ottawa. The European companies could then provide Canada with vehicles equipped with European motors. They currently have to import the motors, which is not cost-effective for them. The Canadian and North American market is very small compared to the European market.
We now have two manufacturers in Canada: one manufactures between 500 and 1,000 buses a year and the other between 2,000 and 3,000. In Europe, every manufacturer builds 4,000 to 8,000 buses a year. Our market is a small one. Standards are too strict and unappealing for European companies. If they could send us a stock bus at a reasonable price—because it should also be said that volume makes for good prices in Europe—we would be able to benefit from the technology developed there by multinationals such as Volvo, Mercedes and Scania. Our bus manufacturers here are not necessarily large companies like that. New Flyer and Orion International, for example, sometimes receive support, but we are talking about small volumes and small manufacturers.
As Serge said at the start of the presentation, the target is for 95% of trips to be done by electricity. So we are not talking about 95% of the vehicles, but about 95% of trips.
Currently in Quebec, half of public transit trips are done by vehicles powered by electricity. We are already at 50%. The Montreal metro transports people on electric power.
We are trying to introduce two heavy means of transportation in Montreal: the tramway and the trolleybus. These two modes of transport will be used for the six or seven busiest routes in the Montreal system. So we should make a jump of 20% or 25% with those two systems alone. They are proven technologies. This is not really a technological challenge since tramways and trolleybuses run everywhere. Money is the issue.
Then we should look at batteries. We do not have a choice since we will not be installing wires across Montreal Island to run the trolleybuses and definitely will not be installing rails across Montreal. So we have to look to rechargeable buses, and that is the objective of our research and development project. We want to try to increase the range of existing buses beyond what batteries currently permit.
Today you have to add a 6,000-kg battery to a normal 12-metre bus in order to have a 500-km range like a diesel bus. That is a really big challenge. It is a technological challenge for battery manufacturers.
What helps us a lot—
Thank you very much, gentlemen.
This is important in two respects. First, we have talked a lot about natural gas since the start. Here we are showing that there is another alternative solution. The purpose of our work is to produce a range of recommendations. I would like to thank you for your presentation. Then there is the issue of recommendations. We are going to go directly to the heart of the matter.
I am referring to what my colleague told you earlier about regulations. I understand that you are recommending, for example, if there is a free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union, that there be an intellectual property and regulatory factor that would permit greater vehicle traffic. Is that correct?
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.
It's a case of our either accepting their regulatory measures or modifying our own to comply with their measures. I am referring specifically to lengths, angles, types of windows, and other safety issues. I mentioned the bumper a while ago. The bumpers are good for five kilometres in Europe. We ask for 7.5 here in North America.
So it's all about these little things throughout the vehicle; it's not the propulsion system, not the electric system, that's the hurdle. It is, however, the engine. This is a big hurdle in itself, because we have just one manufacturer in North America that can build an engine for a city bus, whereas there are dozens in Europe.
So these types of measures are what the big hurdles are right now.
As I explained a little earlier, fuel cell buses are electric buses: you merely replace the batteries with fuel cells. All the traction system in the bus is the same.
The problem with fuel cells is with the hydrogen in them. Once you put hydrogen in a bus, you cannot put the bus into our depot. In Montreal we have seven very huge depots. It's quite simple; it's a problem with the electricity on the ceiling. It has to be explosion-proof. You need have to have special detectors, you have to even have some part of the roof or the wall that can be blown off, if there's a problem. Our huge depots were never meant to have these inside.
Also, the way the hydrogen is produced, it's not that clean. If you look at the bus itself, the bus produces no pollution at all. But you have to know that hydrogen is produced by natural gas. It needs energy; it's not zero-emission, when you look at it.
That's a tough one. We don't look at it this way.
STM bus service is built around 12-metre buses that can accommodate 60 people. The service is built with buses of this capacity that can be left outside for more than 24 hours without refuelling. I think the range is 500 kilometres.
If you change that, we have to buy more buses. If you go to smaller buses or to buses that need to be recharged or refuelled in less time, we need more depots, we need more drivers, and our operational costs would go up very fast.
In my experience with Asian transit systems, a lot of them expressed to me that an urban transit system, especially those using buses, is a closed system. When it is a closed system, why are we concerned about the safety regulations that we have imposed upon ourselves in Canada?
For example, Montreal itself is a closed system. I don't expect you ever to export your buses, unless, when they're finished their service life, you send them down to South America. But before that, within the seven-year economic life that you mentioned, because it is a closed system, why, if we buy enough of them, wouldn't the suppliers around the world—the Fiats, the Volvos, and all of those—not meet our requirements for the windows, for example? As far as the propulsion system is concerned, it's not a problem. Most of the stuff is just very minor cosmetic changes to the bus.
You have to understand that the transit bus market in Canada is not very big. Even if we have thousands of buses to buy in the next four years, those thousands of buses are for a big European company that builds every year....what?
A Voice: It might be 8,000.
Mr. François Chamberland: You have one company that builds 8,000 a year, and you have many companies like that.
They would be interested in coming to us and selling the buses and putting them in conformity with our rules and regulations if they could sell those buses to the United States, but they will never sell a bus in the United States because of the Buy American Act. That's a big problem for us.
We saw it with the midibus I showed you, the smaller electric bus. When we go to big industrial shows, they are all after me to sell me electric buses. Then I tell them that I am from Canada.
“Oh, tough luck!” That's what they told me.
You have to understand that North American buses are built to the Americans' liking. They're very huge buses. They're very tough, they're like tanks, and they're very heavy. We have them in service for 16 years in Montreal. They're very tough.
European buses are lighter, smaller, and cheaper, but they will not make 16 years in our streets, the way we use them. They will not meet the standards of NYCT, for example, which has very high standards for big buses. They have a big test, a mandatory test, for every bus, which is called the Altoona test. I'm sure that if we put a European bus through that, it would be destroyed by the end of the test, and the bus is supposed to survive this.
The European and the Asian manufacturers are not very interested in engineering a big bus like that to try to compete with big, well-established, American bus companies. So the Europeans and the Asians have no interest in the United States.
You're right that our ridership has been rising, with record figures over the last years. Unfortunately, it's not because of technology. STM has been very aggressive with publicity, in a big public campaign saying that it's very intelligent for someone to take the bus or take the métro, and that it's not only economical, but that you're doing it not only for you but also for the planet. We're very aggressive about this, and the message is getting through.
The other thing we did was add service. I think on the bus side we added 27% more kilometres within the last four or five years, so that you wait less time for buses. It's very linked to the increase of service.
Over the years we have had financial difficulties at STM. Our budget was cut year in, year out, so we had to cut in service. But now, over the last five years, the money is back, so we put on more and more service. Even in the métro we have had a huge increase of ridership because we've added some more service.
Do you know whether there's a body that would take all the emerging technologies, whether they're hybrid buses or things that are happening in different cities...?
Does CUTA, the Canadian Urban Transit Association, bring together all the best practices for emerging technologies, and then do they collectively identify the regulatory barriers?
For example, it was surprising to hear that you can only pilot something for one year. Why not for five years?
Is there a list of all the regulatory barriers that are preventing different transit authorities across Canada, especially big ones, from going ahead with using emerging technologies?
There are two sides to your question. The first side is about best practices. For the last 15 years I have been a member of many international committees. The UITP, which is the international union of transporters, makes exchanges with all the major metros of the world and all the major bus transit societies around the world. We participate in NAPTA, which is a North American association of all the operators. And of course, with CUTA, in Canada, we exchange all the best practices.
We work very closely with BC Transit on our demonstration project on the recharging of buses with induction, which I showed you. So BC Transit will be with us on this, not at this stage, because it's too early, but on the next stage when we put more buses into service. We also hope to put some buses like this in Vancouver.
It's very difficult when you gather a lot of different people to speak about the rules and standards, because internationally you have the European standards and you have the North American ones. But in CUTA, certainly, they're looking at this. We are a member of it and we work with them on this issue.
Thank you. I'd like to thank our guests for being here today.
I'd just like to make the point that something not being new technology doesn't necessarily make it bad technology. I really appreciate the testimony that you've provided today, because if you've followed our hearings thus far, we've been getting more information about the use of propane, natural gas, and the like. So I find it very fascinating to have your testimony today.
Mr. Carignan, I'd like to understand this a little better. I do appreciate that STM is responsible for the Island of Montréal, the bus systems, and you seem to be responsible for everything.
Perhaps I can add something. STM is a huge bus operator, so we have a responsibility to the smaller ones to test new things. I have many engineers and technicians working for me. If you take the Trois-Rivières society, they have no engineers. So they use AVT, Serge's group, to get information from us and it's really a matter of coordination among everybody.
Huge bus companies like those in Montreal and probably in Toronto and Vancouver have this responsibility to test these things with our knowledge, with our engineers, with our mechanics, with our technicians. For example, we don't do that too much with the metro, because on the metro side, we're not a big metro, so we leave those experimentations to the Paris metro, to the New York metro. Because even if it's very big, the metro in Montreal in comparison to other metros is small.
So these big metros have a responsibility to us to test all those new technologies. But we do that on the bus side, because I think we're the fourth largest bus fleet in North America, in Montreal.
No, the existing railway corridors in Montreal are already used by suburb trains. You don't have enough people around those tracks to use a tramway there efficiently. A tramway has more capacity than a trolley bus, because a tramway can be six cars or eight cars in length. It's like a small train. To make it worth it, you need a huge number of people living around the tramway or travelling in that corridor for short distances. A tramway does not go that fast; it's not a suburb train.
When you have very few people to transport, you use small buses. If you want to transport more people in one direction, you use 12-metre buses. After that, you have articulated buses. You can use trolley buses on these sites. At one point, all the buses are in line, one behind the other, so you need something bigger. Then you can look at maybe double-articulated buses, which I haven't seen in North America yet. Then you look at tramways, and if the tramway does not do it, you have to look at the metro.
With hybrid buses, you have to understand that for them to work, to save fuel, you have to use them wisely. You have to brake a lot, because the hybrid buses use electric braking to recharge the battery. If you go on a highway with a hybrid, it's worthless; and even on the highway, the hybrid will probably consume more fuel because you have the weight of the battery and you have this extra volume too.
In Montreal our commercial speed is 18 kilometres an hour, which is very slow, because we're always downtown in the traffic. So with the batteries that we have, to save the 30% of the fuel, as we've shown you, we have to use the buses at 18 kilometres an hour. So it's all downtown Montreal. We would not put these hybrid buses on the highways at first to go to either end of the island, because they would not save fuel. I think in Toronto they use the hybrids everywhere and I think they save less than 10% in doing so.
So it's very expensive. But in Montreal with the slow speed that we have, as we're always on the brakes, it will work perfectly. We've tested it with the federal program, the PDTU that we have, and we're quite sure that it's resulting in a 30% fuel saving.
Before beginning, I have to correct you on one point. You did say there's just no federal money to help with these matters. I'm sorry, but 20 years ago you would have been right: there was no federal money then, because, as a rule, federal governments did not fund municipal infrastructure of this kind. Budgets were literally zero.
Today we not only have a permanent gas tax fund, which transfers a continuous and predictable flow of money to municipalities like Montreal, which is the second-largest recipient in the entire country, but there's also a capital fund called Building Canada, which provided a record number of dollars. In addition to that, we just concluded a stimulus program that lasted two years and stacked another multi-billion dollar commitment, of which Montreal was an enormous beneficiary. Even in your presentation, you pointed to the federal contribution to one of your buses.
So I am sorry. We absolutely have to correct the record when witnesses come here and say there's just no federal help and they're not getting any assistance from our level of government.
Do you want to accept that correction? Or do you dispute it?
I just want to make it clear here. We totally recognize the effort that has been made, especially with the Building Canada fund, in which we know there is a tremendous amount of money. That's why, for the next generation, or what I would call the next program that will come in 2014, we want to make sure that public transit stays in the eligible category.
So we recognize that. We recognize as well the gas tax fund transfer, which is quite useful for our own municipality as well.
I think the point here was specifically about R and D, for a program like the program we have here. In English it's the urban transportation showcase program. That was a very, very small program, but very useful for testing new technology like hybrid or electric.
But I totally agree with you.
I also agree that the Hippocratic oath for doctors should apply to government policy, and that is to start by saying “do no harm”. Before we talk about what government should do to help, let's make sure government actions are not the problem in the first place.
You have identified some challenges with regulation on the importation of foreign vehicles and so on. Just to reiterate the request of my colleague, Mr. Richards, I'm interested if you could provide us with a very specific list, including the articles, the sections, and the wording, of what is problematic for your permanent importation of transportation technology that would help you be cleaner, more affordable, and better for the city.
Could you provide us with a very highly specific list of those things because then we can take those to a group of Transport Canada officials before this committee, ask them why those rules exist, and potentially recommend their amendment.? Would you be able to provide us with that list of problems and also proposed amendments?
Thank you for your presentations. That was very interesting.
In fact, I wanted to continue on this same subject. I was interested too, but perhaps in a different way.
In your assessment of greenhouse gas emissions, you also include transportation through pipelines. This is a whole; it is not just about the use of buses in the city. Have I understood correctly?
Just before I recognize Mr. Toet, I think it's important to note that when you talk about the benefits of electricity and electricity-driven vehicles, coming from the province of Manitoba, where we have large resources and large hydro projects, I would point out that there certainly are environmental impacts from developing those dams and displacing communities. In fact, in Manitoba we're still paying for dams that we built 30 years ago.
So just to balance the record out, as much as I believe that electricity-driven vehicles are more efficient compared to gas-driven ones, we're not looking at all the factors necessarily on the electrical side of it, too.
No. Actually, we only saw 12-metre electric buses in Shanghai. These buses were only able to do a hundred kilometres with the battery charge. They have another type of 12-metre bus in Shanghai that they recharge at every stop. They have a rig on the roof that goes up and connects to a wire that they lower, like a trolley. They go to the next stop and they recharge. They don't use a battery, but a supercapacitor.
We are not very interested in this because it's very slow. At every stop you have recharge. I think it's an academic exercise: they wanted to prove something, and that's what they did. It's not really transit-oriented technology, but a technological demonstration.
In Europe they have a lot of smaller electric buses. They have four companies that build them. They use them in Paris and Rome, in the historical centres of many cities, or where it's sensible to have no noise, no pollution, and smaller buses. We were hoping that these companies would offer us some buses when we went for public tenders to get some, but with all of the regulations and changes that were required of them, with the differences involved, they would have had to make investments in doing so. And it was only for seven buses, so they were not interested in bidding for a contract. That's why we got buses that are to be built in the United States by DesignLine.
That does answer my question very clearly, but it brings me to another question. My sense was that by making changes in the regulations and opening up the European market, we were going to allow you to bring in the 12-metre buses that you need. Now I'm hearing that would not be the case.
Is there a huge advantage over the 9-metre buses in Europe compared to the seven buses that you're bringing in? Are they far superior in how they're made? Are they far superior in lifespan? In fact, I guess that ties in a little bit because you were talking about the life cycle of a bus from Europe compared to a North American bus, that a European bus probably wouldn't even survive the testing phase in the United States. I'm looking at it and asking if you are getting a far superior bus. I would assume so, based on the standard testing that this North American bus would have to go through.
Where is the rationale for this huge need for this European bus? I'm not saying it's not there, but I'd like you to maybe explain to me why we have this huge need for the European market.
I showed you that STM is aiming to get a 12-metre bus with a decent range by 2025. This is not out of nowhere: it's a consensus that we have with international experts from the industry and from our involvement in UITP, a consensus with STM and other big operators around the world. We have a battery industry in every country, and we're very confident of this figure, that 2025 will be it. Maybe it will be 2027 or....
In Quebec we have IREQ. I don't know what it is in English. It's the research centre from Hydro-Québec. They already have a battery that can do the job, but it's a prototype. It costs so much. We cannot put that in a bus today because it's not readily industrialized. But it's a 10-year process, and maybe we're three years into it. I'm quite confident that within less than 10 years we can get more than 300 kilometres out of an electric 12-metre bus. Then it will be interesting.
You have to understand that there's no challenge with doing the traction. Electric traction is very old; it was in the streets of Montreal in the 1940s. It's only a matter of the batteries and whether we can get energy sources that can be stocked somewhere. We're getting there. My comment was about the amount of money that they put into the battery industry now.
In fact, before we let you go, there is one topic that we have said virtually nothing about and that I would like to hear you talk about for a few minutes. And that is your inductive recharging research project.
I would like to know how that works. Unless I am mistaken, earlier you said that you have to stop for at least a few minutes above the plate. So it is not a plate that you install at red lights, where the buses pass and take advantage of that to recharge. What system is it?
A lot of promises have been made about the induction system. A lot of things have been shown and a lot of ideas about it have been bandied about. We are working on this project and we are trying to make it work with our partners, which are Bombardier and Nova Bus.
We have seen that there are a lot of genuine constraints. For example, you have to protect the passengers from electromagnetic radiation. As you will understand, the energy radiating underneath a bus is very intense.
As for the plate, it is not easy to get a bus with a floor 1 cm off the ground. That cannot work. The plate has to be as close as possible, with a mechanism that can lower the plate to pick up the energy. We have not yet designed an operating bus, but we believe it will be necessary to recharge the bus for 10 minutes so that it can operate for 50 minutes. We want to test all that. That is the point we have reached in our current calculations.
Consequently, it would not apply to an express bus route or a busy route. We anticipate installing the service at Parc des Îles in Montreal. That would be perfect because the bus would do a short loop in 30 minutes and wait 10 minutes at the metro station, where we would install the plate. If there were 2 plates, the waiting time would be 5 minutes for each plate, and if there were 10 plates, it would be 1 minute. However, the plates are equipped with a small electric device, which involves a lot of money. So that has its limits.
We cannot really deploy it as such. There are still a lot of questions that must be answered. This is really a research and development project.
First I want to thank you and to congratulate you. We should not give our thousands of listeners the impression that you misled people when you talked about federal government funding. I understand that public transit must remain eligible under the next program and that there should be a greater investment in research and development. That is what must be understood and that is what you said. Those who did not understand that may have been listening to something else during this time, or were playing with their machines rather than listening to you, but that is their problem.
It would be important to mention and to understand that the purpose of all the regulations on standards and norms is to give you a broader range in this environment. The idea is thus to have the opportunity to get the necessary tools so that your plan for 2025 can be implemented.
You talked about motors, but there is obviously the whole question of batteries. Am I to understand that, if the Canadian government invested more in research and development, that might speed matters up with regard to battery storage capacity? That would enable us to reduce battery size and weight in order to achieve your ends.
That is correct. We do not necessarily want to buy vehicles manufactured outside Canada or North America. That is not the objective.
There are currently products available only in those locations. The authorities do not know exactly what technology they will want to adopt or what technology will be best for the future. We have to test a large number of technologies, to learn from those technologies and perhaps to demonstrate to the North American industry that such and such a technology could meet our criteria and that development could be done in that area.
Since projects are currently under development in North America, we cannot test them. However, there are other projects outside North America that we can test. It is by testing four technologies that we will be able to determine, for example, that we need the third one. In so doing, we would be able to focus our energies in order to acquire those vehicles in three, four or five years, for example.
I want to pick up on a little conversation that we had earlier but which was cut-off in that round.
Regarding natural gas versus fully electric vehicles, I think you stated that there were actually next to no emissions from the electric bus in Montreal and that the greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas compared to electric buses there were four times greater. That was based on a study you had indicated was done by a university somewhere. I wanted to ask a couple of questions relating to that.
I know that when the batteries for an electric vehicle are produced, there will certainly be some greenhouse gas emissions produced by that. Was that taken into consideration as part of that study as well?
Can I stop you there for a second?
My understanding was that you had indicated, or at least it sounded to me as though you had, that you were factoring in a lot of things, including the transportation. You were indicating that it was specifically for Montreal, which was further away from where the gas was produced. So it sounds to me as though you're factoring in those kinds of things in the study, yet the production of the battery wouldn't have been factored into it. It seems odd to me that it wouldn't be factored in as well.
I guess what I'm suggesting is that you find it difficult to share with the committee the actual study itself—which, as you're saying, is a preliminary study that hasn't been peer reviewed or anything of that nature—but are willing to make statements at this point from that the preliminary study. I find that a little troubling, to be honest. I would suggest that the committee would like to know when that study has been verified or peer reviewed. I find it very troubling that you'd make a verbal statement that you're not able to back up with the study itself. I just find that a little troubling.
We'll maybe move on from there.
I guess what I'd like to ask, concerning the fully electric vehicle itself, is about the testing that has been done. I know you've mentioned some of the specifics with respect to the winters we have here in Canada, but you can tell me a little bit about the testing that has been done concerning the climates we deal with? How certain are you that the fully electric buses can be fully implemented in Canadian kinds of climate?Would we be simply looking at hybrids? What kind of comparisons have been done in that regard with other technologies?
Organize matters as you wish, Mr. Chair, but when we adjourn a debate, it implies that we can resume it.
If you want a motion, so be it. Since we have time to hold a subcommittee meeting, it would be possible to do so, even after NAV Canada. However, this motion must be resolved once and for all. There are too many issues, and this involves many other municipalities besides Neuville.
If we study the first point, I would like you to put me at the top of the list. I am officially asking to be first on the list. If this is only about that, let's opt for a previous question, but let's stop playing the procedural game and undermining people's quality of life. This is ridiculous.