National Electric Vehicle
The federal government has created an advisory panel aimed at bringing more zero-emission vehicles to roads across the country, a decision that industry manufacturers and electric car advocates say is a positive step forward.
While the details of the strategy have yet to be discussed, Transport Minister Marc Garneau told the Canadian Press Friday that the government will not follow Quebec’s zero-emission vehicle mandate, which requires automakers to sell a minimum number of electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles — a move that is sure to please Canada’s automakers.
Garneau and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, in Montreal and Toronto respectively, announced the creation of a panel of experts that will focus on developing a national strategy to increase the number of zero-emissions vehicles on Canadian roads by 2018. The advisory panel includes representatives from the auto industry, non-government organizations, academia, and both provincial and federal levels of government.
Flavio Volpe, the president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association and member of the panel, said it’s important that industry leaders are in the room for the policy discussions that could disrupt the auto sector.
“If you look at the names and the seniority of the people on the table, we have the right people there, ” Volpe said.
“The fact that the (Innovation) Minister is running the Canadian panel is a better indication of the sanguine approach we’re going to take to this than the one by the Minister of Climate Change in Ontario.”
At a press conference Friday in Toronto, Bains commended the auto industry for reducing greenhouse gas emissions for vehicles by 25 per cent on average since 2005, but said there is still more work to do.
“Right now, about 48 per cent of emissions from the transportation sector still come from cars and light duty trucks. Putting more zero emission vehicles on the road will make an important contribution to reducing our carbon emissions, ” he said, adding that just two out of every 100 vehicles purchased in Canada are zero-emission vehicles.
Unrealistic stretch targets set you up for failure
“We want to change that number, ” Bains said. In Canada, just 0.56 per cent of vehicles sold in 2016 were electric.
The panel will focus on addressing five areas; vehicle supply, cost and benefits of ownership, infrastructure readiness, public awareness, and clean growth and jobs. It will also have to strike a balance between satisfying environmentalists by meeting greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, and ensuring manufacturers can meet any requirements.
Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association and a member of the advisory panel, hopes to see Canada adopt a similar approach to the one applied in Norway, where there aren’t explicit regulations but mutually supportive policies associated with cost, infrastructure and consumers incentives that encourage the purchase of electric vehicles.
Volpe hopes the strategy includes some regulations and consumer and investment incentives. He was also encouraged that Garneau said the strategy will not follow requirements such as those in Quebec and California, which require automakers to sell zero-emission vehicles in proportion to overall sales.
“Frankly, every time someone comes up with a quota, it doesn’t match. Unrealistic stretch targets set you up for failure, ” he said.
“I think that decision shows leadership. It’s something courageous in this space.”
Cara Clairman, president of Plug ‘n Drive, a non-profit focused on accelerating the adoption of electric cars, hopes to see consistent policy applied across the country.
“There will be differences of opinion in how aggressive to be, ” she said. “But I think there’s a view that everybody wants this to be successful.”