In this week’s Covid-19 Taskforce webinar, movmi’s Venkatesh Gopal spoke with Dr. Josipa Petrunic, President and CEO of CUTRIC – a socially responsible non-profit organization that spearheads, designs, and launches technology and commercialization projects that advance next-generation zero-carbon mobility and transportation solutions across Canada. In this webinar, they discussed EVs in public transit; how COVID-19 has impacted public transit agencies views towards the electrification of their fleets and how to redesign public transit and infrastructure (in this new world) to make it more attractive, efficient, equitable and cost effective to city residents, in Canada and across the globe.

You can also directly ask the taskforce anything related to Covid-19 and seek advice on managing your own operation by sending an email to



Even though we have seen a decrease in public transportation usage over the last few months, the pandemic, as a whole, won’t be detrimental to public transit in the long term. Return to transit will be necessary. There is a dip right now, but cities are too important for transit to die. Transit is critical to help with the goals of climate action to given people living in cities a better quality of life. The personal car can’t move lots of people, over long distances the same way public transit does, therefore it is a vital part of our transportation network.

Covid has given transit agencies the mental and operational space to think of new technologies, such as contactless usage, telemetry, automation etc. They have also been thinking about electrification more robustly over the last few months. With less procurement needed for diesel and hybrid buses at the moment, agencies are able to balance out their needs with more fully electric vehicles within their fleets. Innovation hasn’t stopped even though ridership has dropped.

COVID has changed the way governments and public transit agencies are thinking about electrification across all sectors;

  1. COVID has caused governments to think about how they want to rebuild their economies. They are coming to the conclusion of a green future, with green and clean technologies across all industries – much faster and sooner than we expected. The Canadian government has committed to becoming a zero emission country by mid-century, which means that the majority of their funding will go towards R&D in the sustainable technologies sector. This is great for electric mobility because it all trickles down, from federal to provincial to municipalities and so on.
  2. How should we electrify in the most efficient way? Transit agencies wanted to spend very little money on charging stations, but this does not work effectively. With a lack of a budget, particularly now during COVID, a lot of agencies are looking at using and implementing Hydrogen Fuel cells instead, which is a huge turning point for mobility, particularly within Canada.
  3. The return to transit – How can we get more people back on transit? The more we use EVs, the more money we save over time. Rewards and incentives ideas have started to crop up in dialogues. We need to innovate the design of bus interiors and offer cash rewards for people who use public transit on a regular basis. If we increase ridership on fully electric buses, Canada will definitely achieve its zero emissions goal by mid-century. 

CUTRIC has invested nearly C$1 million in an eCAMION project to develop new electric bus charging tech. The project aims to lower operation costs of bus charging systems, reduce environmental footprints and cut the charging systems’ price in half. Another way for cities to save money on the implementation of charging systems is creating standardized unites that delivery vehicles could also use on the go, for a fee.

While there are projects to deploy en route charging stations for buses within the cities, these chargers won’t be occupied all the time. Efforts are geared towards getting delivery (City maintenance vehicles, Amazon, Canada Post delivery fleet). CUTRIC are also interested in the first and last mile problem and have a smart vehicle project that has low speed, electric, autonomous shuttles. However these vehicles don’t plug into the over charging stations like the buses at present, so they are looking at a way to design such vehicles in the future so that charging infrastructure can be merged to cater to all modes of transportation. The reality is that it is necessary but it hasn’t been done just yet. COVID shouldn’t pass without a lot of radical action in the mobility sphere to make it better for both people and the climate.

Rail is the fastest and smoothest way to move large amounts of people. CUTRIC is running their next conference in November on rail innovation, bringing together the best of autonomous, connected and electric technologies and asking the rail industry to come to the table with better solutions. 

If you have a direct question for the taskforce related to Covid-19 or wish to seek advice on managing your own operation, send an email with your question to For more Covid-19 information and resources click here.

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