The electrification of its COLT fleet isn't feasible at this time, but should continue to be closely monitored, according to a study presented to town council on Mar. 18.

Josipa Petrunic, president and CEO of the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC), recommends the town wait a few years for technological advancements, further develop its transit system and continue with the facility and depot calculations so the town has a clear perspective of labour and facility costs involved.

Two key factors lead to administration agreeing with the recommendation.

Currently, a full review of the transit system is underway that may result in changes to the service model. Additionally, Cochrane does not own the land nor the facilities to install the required charging infrastructure.

The study examined three scenarios; one based on the current gas-fired buses; and two battery electric buses (BEB) with different capacities.

BEB 1, which has a low battery capacity option at 100+ kWh, requires 14 electric buses. The second option, BEB 2, with a high-capacity configuration at 250+ kWh, would require a fleet of eight electric buses, the same as the current fleet.

While BEBs are expected to decrease greenhouse gas emissions over their useful life over conventional gasoline, of the scenarios presented, only BEB 2 represents reduced emissions, while BEB 1 produces higher overall emissions compared to the existing gasoline fleet.

Petrunic says Cochrane's on-demand system hasn't placed Cochrane in a bad place for greenhouse gas emissions.

"Fixed route really does work when you have the community demand and the density, and it can and should be modeled out, but where you are now with on-demand services is a very smart move for greenhouse gas reduction," she told council. "So that's one good conclusion to walk away with."

Both BEB scenarios result in higher total costs of ownership over the expected lifecycle versus maintaining a gasoline fleet. Ownership of the buses based upon a 13-year lifecycle is estimated to be $4.4 million for the gas fleet, $7.1 million for BEB 1, and $8.5 million for BEB 2.

There is a caveat. The incremental cost can be substantially decreased if the town applies for Zero Emissions Transit funding. In Cochrane's case, it would cover 50 per cent of manufactured suggested retail price (MSRP) of the buses.

While the charging infrastructure costs have been considered in this study, the cost of land and facilities is not included. Nor have the labour costs been fully flushed out for either of the BEB options.

According to town administration's report, the federal government is laying out plans to ban the sale of gas or diesel-only powered vehicles by 2035. It has allocated $25 billion dollars in grant funding to support this transition for municipalities.

Additionally, it told council there are reports that bus manufacturers may cease or be reduced the production of traditional diesel buses.

The $103,800 planning study cost $103,800. The federal government covered $83,040 of the cost and the town, $20,760.