Jeff Scott: The Countryside View – Delivery vehicles go electric, right on time

Jeff Scott, school bus driver, former city councillor, and editorial writer, shares his views on the dawn of electric delivery vehicles.

By Jeff Scott

There has been a lot of media attention lately given to Elon Musk and Tesla’s attempt to mass-produce electric cars. There seems to be a demand for these cars by some people, but the thought of the chance of running out of power on the way to the cottage makes most people reluctant to buy one.

But there is a whole class of vehicles that never travel that far and come back to one place every day: delivery vehicles. There are millions of them out on our roads and streets, delivering everything from parcels to school children. It was the environmental problem of greenhouse gases produced by school buses that first got me curious about electric vehicles. Diesel engines on school buses produce about a tonne of carbon dioxide per student per year, which can be completely eliminated by replacing them with electric motors. The diesel exhaust fumes are also unhealthy for the children while the buses are idling for pick-ups. I hate fueling up my bus on a cold winter’s day, but plugging an electric one in every day would not be a problem, since I would have to plug in the block heater anyway. There would, of course, be no worry about running out of power while out on the road with the kids because the bus would be back in the driveway twice a day. I was thrilled to find out that bus companies like Blue Bird and Lion are already making electric school buses that can go up to 250 kilometres on a charge. In fact, electric school buses will be tested here in Ontario this fall, with 18 different bus companies testing them out under a Government of Ontario trial.

Transit buses are also going electric. Jeremy DaCosta from Kingston Transit has told me that they would like to get two new electric city buses.  There are several reasons why they would be better vehicles, and the first is maintenance: electric buses have no internal combustion engines which require coolants, lubricating oils, starters, alternators and transmissions that can be difficult and expensive to keep running. Fuel and greenhouse gases are another problem with existing buses. A single bus replaced with an electric would save 40,000 litres of diesel per year, and would not emit 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Electric buses are also much more comfortable for the passengers, as well.  They give a much smoother ride with better acceleration and slowing, as well as making far less noise.  London, England is moving very quickly to switch to electric buses with 68 ordered this year, and the goal of replacing all of their fleet with electric within twelve years.

The rapid increase in online shopping and the equally rapid increase of parcels has made for many more delivery vans on the streets. These vehicles stop and start all day long, with engines often idling while deliveries are made. These vehicles are also going electric, with a major move by UPS to purchase 1,500 electric delivery vans from the automaker Daimler, replacing all of their vehicles in New York City. With large orders like this, and with companies willing to make them, it will not be very long before all delivery vehicles will be electric.

Making fleet vehicles electric makes really good sense, and it looks like it is going to happen quickly with great enthusiasm by all parties involved.


Jeff Scott is a former councillor for the City of Kingston (Countryside District), and has contributed editorial content local publications for a number of years. He continues to live, work and write in the Countryside district of Kingston, and runs his own blog, The Countryside View. Visit his Facebook page at to read more of Jeff’s content.

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