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Ottawa confronts four barriers to widespread ZEV adoption

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 11/13/2020 3:28:00 PM

Transport Canada’s analysis of market data shows that the share of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) in Canada grew from 2% market share to 3%, Megan Nichols, Transport Canada’s director general, Environmental Policy, told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in recent testimony.

To meet government ZEV sales targets of 10% of new light-duty vehicles by 2025, 30% by 2030, and 100% by 2040, new measures will be needed, which could include “additional measures to ensure that there is adequate supply to meet increased demand,” Nichols said.

Quebec and British Columbia are the only Canadian jurisdictions that have imposed ZEV sales targets on industry. Nichols confirmed that the two provinces account for 78% of ZEV sales in Canada: 48% in Quebec, 30% in British Columbia. However, she would not confirm that a national ZEV mandate was under consideration.

Supply is one of four barriers to widespread ZEV adoption, Nichols told the committee, the other three being affordability, access to recharging stations and consumer awareness.

The federal and many provincial governments currently offer rebates on the purchase of ZEVs to address affordability concerns. Nichols said one option currently being considered is extending the federal ZEV rebate to used vehicles. Roughly 60% of vehicle purchases are of used vehicles, Nichols said.

Joanna Kyriazis, senior policy advisor at Clean Energy Canada, suggested another option: a means test that would provide a greater incentive to low- and middle-income Canadians. It’s an approach that has been taken elsewhere, Kyriazis told the committee.

Brian Kingston, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, reminded the committee that vehicle manufacturers are already providing their own form of incentive in order to build demand: on average, manufacturers lose $12,000 on each electric vehicle sold, Kingston said.

As to the availability of charging stations — the “range anxiety” that is impeding market growth — Paula Vieira, executive director, Fuel Diversification Division, Clean Fuels Branch, at the Department of Natural Resources, told the committee that the department is looking to build a coast-to-coast network of chargers every 65 kilometres.

The question of rising electricity demand from this hoped-for growth in ZEV sales was taken on by Francis Bradley, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Electricity Association. Bradley said he was more concerned about metering and local infrastructure than electricity supply.

Increased demand might actually present a welcome opportunity to make productive use of surplus power generated overnight or during off-peak times, Bradley said, but it could place an excessive burden on the local distribution infrastructure.  “Even a handful of EVs on a single street could require upgrades beyond what is currently in place,” Bradley said.

Prescriptive rules built into electricity metering in statutes like the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act and the Weights and Measures Act will also have to be revised, Bradley said, in order to accommodate the sharing of charging stations in public places or in shared spaces like condominiums and apartments.

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