Electric Vehicles, Good for Consumers, Good for the Environment

Following the signing of the Paris agreement in 2016, the 2017 Pan Canadian Framework stated:
2. Putting more zero‑emission vehicles on the road Federal, provincial, and territorial governments will work with industry and other stakeholders to develop a Canada-wide strategy for zero-emission vehicles by 2018. Federal, provincial, and territorial governments will work together, including with private-sector partners, to accelerate demonstration and deployment of infrastructure to support zero-emission vehicles, such as electric-charging stations.

We believe that the federal government should focus on this goal as it holds the promise of delivering an early transition to reduced GHG emissions while providing significant savings to consumers. Electric vehicles (EVs) reduce the cost of travel by about 80% depending on the relative cost of gas/diesel to electricity. This will save the average driver close to $2000 per year. Each EV will reduce CO2 emissions, on average, by several tonnes per year.

At the same time EVs cut GHG emissions by an average of about 88% across Canada and close to 100% in British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec and PEI as these provinces have almost 100% carbon free electricity. In Alberta, where coal power plants provide most electricity, EVs nevertheless result in a minimum of 32% reduction of GHG. As Canada moves away from coal towards lower GHG electricity generation with the phaseout of coal power plants by 2030, these numbers will only improve. Today, the 77,000 plug-in vehicles currently in Canada will reduce GHGs by about 2,500,000 tonnes over their lifetimes.

To achieve the maximum impact for both GHG reduction and benefit to the consumer, we believe that the Federal Government needs to consider 4 pillars in its EV policy. By addressing each of these areas, the government can present an effective, holistic policy that sets out the goals and the measures in context.

Supply – Supply is the biggest issue holding back EV sales in Canada today. We believe that policies are needed to ensure that EVs are stocked and readily available to all Canadians. By addressing supply, we can ensure also that a wide range of EVs are available to consumers giving them the selection they need. Established mandates and quotas schemes such as California’s ZEV Program have been successful in ensuring consumers can purchase cars from stock. California’s ZEV Program has been implemented in 9 other states and Quebec covering about 30% of North American auto sales.

Demand – Today, EVs are significantly more expensive to buy when compared to similar internal combustion engine (ICE) powered cars. This will change as battery prices drop over the next several years where eventually EVs will be priced at par with ICE cars. Meanwhile, incenting EV buyers will increase sales and send a clear message that the government wants Canadians to support GHG emissions reduction. The government should educate consumers on the benefits and savings that come with owning an EV to further stoke demand.
Diesel vehicles such as buses and trucks are becoming available in battery electric versions. Operators of those vehicles, typically fleets, should also be incented to adopt EVs, particularly since diesel powered vehicles produce plentiful particulates which are harmful to public health.

Infrastructure – The ability to charge rapidly (or lack thereof) during long trips is what is seen as a significant barrier to widespread adoption of EVs. As we transition to electric transportation, continued support for a Canada-wide charging infrastructure from the Federal government will be needed. The Federal government can also help with regulation and guidance to ensure that charging can be delivered at reasonable cost to consumers.

Industry – The move away from fossil powered vehicles to EVs is the biggest change in the transportation industry since the move from horse and buggy to the Model T. If Canada is to have an auto industry in the future we need to ensure that auto industry subsidies favour the future by encouraging auto industry investment in EVs and related technologies. Canada has plentiful supplies of all of the many raw materials required for battery production, including lithium, cobalt and nickel. There is a significant potential for building a value added supply chain from mine to wheel that will result in good jobs here is Canada.