How realistic are the campaign promises around electric vehicles?
HAMILTON, ONT. – All but one of the parties vying for Monday’s election are talking about the transition from gasoline-powered vehicles to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), powered by electricity.
This is a key step in meeting Canada’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the climate crisis, as approximately 25 percent of the country’s emissions come from transportation. Canada is committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
The big question is whether the targets for the shift to electric vehicles are achievable.
The Liberals have pledged to ensure that at least half of all passenger vehicles sold in Canada will be ZEVs by 2030 and that they will represent 100% of sales by 2035.
To get there, the Liberals will offer $ 5,000 in incentives to ZEV buyers and build 50,000 charging stations. Its platform is also committed to doubling the tax credit available to mining companies exploring the minerals needed for the production of batteries for electric vehicles.
The NDP also wants all-new car sales to be electric by 2035 and promises to exempt the federal sales tax on ZEVs and offer incentives of up to $ 15,000 per family for vehicles made in Canada. Canada. The party will also offer discounts on electric charger installation costs for those who purchase new or used ZEVs.
The Conservatives say they will demand that 30% of all light-duty vehicles sold in Canada be zero-emissions by 2030 and promise improvements to the country’s electricity grid and charging infrastructure. The party is also pledging investments of $ 1 billion in the manufacture of electric vehicles and an additional $ 1 billion for the production of hydrogen.
The Conservatives also pledge to update the Canadian building code to make charging stations mandatory and that every federal or public building with parking has charging stations by 2025.
The Green Party promises to ban the sale of gasoline cars by 2030. It also promises federal subsidies and discounts for buyers of electric vehicles.
The Bloc QuÃ©bÃ©cois would introduce a law requiring car dealers to always have an adequate inventory of electric vehicles.
The People’s Party of Canada platform does not deal specifically with electric vehicles, but says it “would withdraw from the Paris Agreement and abandon unrealistic targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” The PCP would also remove subsidies for green technologies.
Joanna Kyriazis, senior policy advisor at Clean Energy Canada, says the Liberal platform is what her organization was hoping to hear, although she points out that it was the Conservative party that first mandated a vehicle sales target electricity by 2030 in its climate plan published in the spring.
âWe really believe this has played a big role in advancing the goals of the Liberal plan,â she said in a telephone interview with Ottawa’s CTVNews.ca.
She said the NDP plan lacks details on funding levels for charging infrastructure and consumer incentives.
So far at least, there are few electric vehicles on our roads. According to Electric Mobility Canada, there were just under 170,000 electric vehicles on the road at the end of 2020, which is less than one percent of the total 23 million light vehicles.
But the electricity sales figures continue to climb.
In 2020, 54,353 new ZEVs (hybrid and fully electric) were registered in Canada, which represented 3.52% of new sales, according to Statistics Canada The figures. This figure fell from 2.91% in 2019 and less than 1% in 2016.
The numbers were also on the rise in the first quarter of this year, ZEVs represented 4.6% of sales.
A KPMG Canada survey released in February found that 68% of those who plan to buy a vehicle in the next five years are likely to buy a fully electric or hybrid model. But many respondents said they were still concerned about the availability of charging stations, battery life, range and purchase price.
Globally, electric vehicles account for a four percent share of passenger cars and a one percent share in the van and truck segment, according to BloombergNEF data.
Most countries are not on track to reduce road transport emissions to zero by mid-century, according to the report, and 60% of new ZEV car sales should be required by 2030. percent by then.
The switch to electric won’t happen overnight, but it happens quickly, said Peter Hatges, national automotive industry leader at KPMG in Canada, in a report published in 2020 on the future of the country’s automotive sector.
âI’m not sure people appreciate the dramatic change that’s coming. It’s like the transition from horses and buggies to cars. Everything is going to be different.
When the federal government announced in late June that it was shifting its goal of a full shift to electric vehicles from 2040 to 2035, Omar Alghabra, then transport minister, said the goal was ambitious but necessary.
“We think it’s doable. It takes determination, it takes focus, it takes effort.”
He said Ottawa has already invested at least $ 600 million in an incentive program offering discounts of up to $ 5,000 for a fully electric vehicle and $ 2,500 for a hybrid vehicle.
But the Liberal government had previously said that while the discounts were popular, they would not be enough to meet its first goal – electric vehicles accounting for 10% of sales by 2025.
Norway is the ‘child witness’ of over 50 percent electric vehicle uptake and a signal to Canada of what is possible in a relatively short period of time, says Nino Di Cara, Founder and President of Electric Autonomy Canada, an information platform covering electricity, autonomous and on-demand mobility.
A big part of the equation is whether Canadians are ready to embrace an electric vehicle the next time they buy a car. Di Cara thinks they are – or at least will be.
Di Cara says that while the climate crisis usually fuels the discussion about ZEVs, what is often overlooked is that it is simply better technology and a better experience.
âElectric vehicles are smoother, quieter and cheaper to drive,â he said in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca of Toronto.
âAs people see it in their neighborhood, they will want it and the old technology will fade away, just like the smartphone did for the flip phone. This tipping point for the consumer is coming.
Until that tipping point is reached, the market needs incentives and leadership from government, he says.
While actual sales figures are “growing more slowly than we would like,” says Kyriazis of Clean Energy Canada, projections indicate that electric vehicles will reach price parity with their gasoline-powered counterparts in the mid-2020s and that will change the situation. given. . “
The battery range has also improved significantly, with many models reaching 400 kilometers on one charge.
It’s also critical that most automakers have plenty of electric models in the pipeline that will drive demand, especially in the SUV, crossover and truck segment that the vast majority of Canadians covet, she says.
On the charging side, investments are needed to ensure that those who live in urban areas in condos, apartments, and homes without a private garage or driveway can plug in their cars.
It also means setting up stations in rural areas and in areas accessible to the public, Kyriazis explains.
âThere are a lot of questions out there. Are we converting gas stations into charging points? Or are we creating community charging centers in schools, churches and community centers? There is also a lot of creativity in placing them in tourist areas, parks or shopping areas where you can enjoy your time while your car is charging.
In 2020, there were approximately 7,700 public charging stations in Canada, of which only about 500 were able to provide a full charge in about 20 minutes, according to the KPMG report.
âIt’s a chicken and egg problem. But governments need to move beyond that mentality and invest from the start in the infrastructure that will bring consumersâ¦ â
Cara Clairman, CEO of Plug ‘N Drive, a Toronto-based nonprofit, says it will take “a supercharged national effort” to get Canadians behind the wheel of electric vehicles.
In a blog post in June, Clairman said consumer awareness of fuel and maintenance savings is not strong, even though switching from gas to electricity can “save the average driver up to $ 1,500 a year on fuel alone.” . “
Canada has all the elements in place to meet its goals, says Di Cara, including an electricity grid largely powered by hydropower, nuclear, solar and wind power, a strong automotive sector, many research into clean technologies and future vehicles; and a rich national supply of high-value metals and minerals such as lithium and nickel that go into the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries.
It’s really a question of ambition, says Di Cara. Norway shows that a rapid transition is realistic.
âSo as Canadians do we want to be at the forefront or do we want to be left behind because it’s difficult? “
Ultimately, Kyriazis says, there is no choice but to switch to electric vehicles to avoid the worst of a climate crisis.
“This is where the whole world is heading.”
Edited by Adam Ward