Edmonton’s electric buses power technological and environmental benefits

Sandor Havas (pronounced Shandor Havash) has been driving professionally for 43 years. Growing up in Budapest, Hungary, Sandor was drawn towards a life-long career with vehicles. At 16, he fell in love with driving by racing a FIAT. At 20, he pursued his passion by joining Budapest’s transit service.  In fact, he was the youngest person to drive transit in the city, requiring a special permit he earned by completing an extensive exam and six months of specialized service working in the garage. He wound up skipping two years of required experience before operating an articulated bus known as the “Artic” in bus circles. For Edmontonians, think of the Route 8 and 9 accordion buses. 

Sandor moved to Canada in 1998, completed the necessary training and joined ETS in March 2010. Sandor refers to his occupation as being “married to the bus,” with the benefit of getting paid to travel.

Starting in 2019 through to 2022, ETS purchased 60 electric buses from Proterra, an integral part of two transformational priorities for the City of Edmonton, the Energy Transition Strategy and the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. When Sandor heard about the new buses, he eagerly set out to experience them himself. With a background as an automotive technician, a fascination with mechanics, and an earnestness for novel challenges, he became one of the first Edmonton drivers to operate the Proterra buses every day for a year. 

Sandor prefers electric vehicles for several reasons. He loves that they are cleaner for the environment—not “puffing emissions,” he says, adding they are whisper-quiet to operate. This is particularly important when driving through residential neighbourhoods in the early morning and late evening hours when residents sleep. The only bus noises that people seem to hear—doors opening and closing, brakes engaging—are amplified due to the lack of any engine sounds.

Back of ETS Proterra bus
Proterra bus being charged by overhead chargers at Centennial Garage

Each 40-foot bus charges in under four hours. The electricity used to charge the buses is fully offset by renewable energy certificates, with 60% of the energy being wind-powered and 40% hydro-generated. In 2024, 100% of the power supplied to the City will be renewable, with 80% coming from wind and 20% derived from solar. Gary Cook, the City’s Utility Supply Lead, said these initiatives would prevent 95,000 tonnes of carbon  from entering our atmosphere annually. To put that in perspective, this is the equivalent of 21,140 gas-powered cars running for a year.

Battery Electric Powered Bus on window of ETS Proterra bus

The power of electric buses surpasses their diesel counterparts, too. The Proterra buses have 510 horsepower, while the diesel buses have 360 horsepower. Some extra horsepower is needed to carry the seven tonnes of weight on top of the bus, where all the electrical gear is protectively housed. The ETS electric bus is a Proterra Catalyst E2 Max and broke a world record in 2017 for having travelled the longest distance ever recorded by any EV — 1,772 km, on a single charge!

Sandor hopes that with more training and comprehensive manuals, newer drivers will appreciate and grow to love the “future of global public transportation — we aren’t returning to the horse ride.”  Sandor knows that he is taking the road less travelled right now with electric buses. But he also knows that this will make all the difference.