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BC Transit's $20M deal for electric buses cancelled after supplier's bankruptcy

Proterra's electric bus manufacturing facility in Greenville, South Carolina. (Supplied/Proterra ) Proterra's electric bus manufacturing facility in Greenville, South Carolina. (Supplied/Proterra )
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A U.S. court ruling has pulled the plug on BC Transit's plans to introduce electric buses to its fleet in the B.C. capital region.

The provincial transit operator had ordered 10 buses from U.S.-based zero-emission vehicle manufacturer Proterra in May 2022, in a deal worth $20 million.

The electric buses were scheduled to roll out across the Greater Victoria region that fall, as BC Transit embarked on a plan to have a fully electric fleet provincewide by 2040.

However, the plan hit a roadblock last summer when Proterra filed for bankruptcy protection and the company's transit assets were bought by California-based Phoenix Motorcars.

BC Transit has since been in negotiations with Phoenix about fulfilling its order for the electric buses. But a Delaware bankruptcy court decision Tuesday found Phoenix has no contractual obligation to supply the vehicles to BC Transit, according to the transit operator.

"As a result, BC Transit will not receive its first 10 electric buses from Phoenix," the transit company said in a release Wednesday.

BC Transit says it will continue to work towards its 2040 electrification goal despite the setback. 

"For the past several months, BC Transit has been working behind the scenes to ensure the electrification program moves forward," the transit operator said in the release.

BC Transit has sought to prequalify more vendors of electric buses and charging equipment to meet the first phase of its electrification program, the company said. 

"In the meantime, we continue to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by using renewable fuels while we transition to electric buses," the release said.

Last spring, the transit provider started construction on 10 electric bus chargers at the Victoria Transit Centre, anticipating the arrival of the now-cancelled buses. The company says the charging equipment is now "ready to support electric buses from other suppliers" once new contracts are in place.

BC Transit is not out any money after the cancellation of the $20-million deal, "as is consistent with the payment milestones of the contract," the company said in a statement to CTV News.

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