Award winners reveal how resolve – and forward thinking – can move Canadian communities toward electrification
To gather speed, transport electrification needs its champions. Some cities in Canada actively assume that mantle, trading part of their own diesel and gas vehicles for electric. They also invest in infrastructure to facilitate their citizens transition towards electric vehicles and play an important role in disseminating information about EVs among their communities.
Believing these leaders deserve recognition – and to help set a bar for others to emulate – Electric Mobility Canada created and handed out its first Municipal Electric Champion Awards at this year’s EV2019 Conference and Trade Show in Quebec City. Three municipalities were chosen by a panel of EMC-member judges in three categories – small (under 50,000 population), medium (50,000 to 200,000) and large (over 200,000). The winners, respectively, were, Plessisville, Que., Kingston, Ont., and Montreal.
Electric Autonomy Canada followed up with each to highlight a few critical insights.
Small city, big convictions
Plessiville is a city of less than 7,000 people located roughly 100 kilometres southwest of Quebec City. It was the first municipality in Quebec to complete the five steps of the Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) program proposed by ICLEI Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. “We are working hard to reach our goals of cutting our corporate greenhouse gases emissions by 20 per cent and our collective GHG emissions by 10 per cent by 2020,” explains Alain Desjardins, the city’s director.
The biggest gains can be found in transportation. Plessisville has launched several initiatives to accelerate the transition towards EVs. Since 2015, citizens can rent the two EVs used by city employees. They are available every evening and all day on the weekends and public holidays. The city has also installed three double EV chargers (two Level 2 and one Level 3) and sometimes makes its own two chargers available to the public. Says Desjardins: “Our city is too small to have a big impact just by making its own fleet electric, but we can increase that impact by helping our citizens adopt EVs.”
EMC’s judges were impressed by the city’s desire to punch above its weight, stating: “Plessisville is a perfect example of a small municipality exercising leadership in electrification.”
It’s also still innovating. Plessisville is currently experimenting with GeeBee’s electric scooters, as well as trying to use electricity with some of the functions of diesel trucks, like street sweepers and tilting tanks.
Agent of change
Kingston is home to about 125,000 citizens. In 2017, the limestone city adopted its first EV strategy.
Around 33 per cent of the city’s carbon footprint is due to gas and diesel used in transportation, according to environment director Paul MacLatchy. “That represents 42 per cent of our city’s total energy spending,” he says. “That means the citizens and businesses of Kingston spend roughly $240 million annually purchasing diesel and gasoline and most of that money leaves our city. We want to reduce our carbon footprint and retain some of that economic activity.”
EMC’s judges were impressed by Kingston’s “well-defined targets” to address electrification for various municipal fleets. At the moment, eight of the city’s 60 light-duty vehicles are electric or hybrids. That will grow as existing diesel and gas vehicles reach the end of their useful life. The city is replacing each two of these with one EV. That helps offset the higher acquisition cost of the EV and is more in line with the actual utilization of the fleet. The city also now has 42 Level 2 and two Level 3 chargers and is buying its first two electric transit buses. It is investing in that charging infrastructure so citizens can adopt EVs themselves.
“We also want to be an agent of change by providing information to our employees, the public and local businesses about EVs and partnering with organizations such as Sustainable Kingston, Kingston EV Society or Plug’n Drive,” adds MacLatchy.
Create a favourable environment for EVs
Larger cities are well-positioned to have a strong impact on transport electrification. The City of Montreal has a population of more than 1.7 million people. They own almost 797,000 passenger vehicles. Only a little more than 5,300 are electric. The city wants to create a favourable environment to help citizens transition towards electric transport, including city transit buses. Three entirely electric buses will be tested until December 2019 by the Montreal Transport Society, who recently bought 30 more.
The city is also making a strong push on Level 2 chargers – action that the EMC judges said tipped the vote in Montreal’s favour. The number of chargers should reach 1,000 in 2020, of which 668 are already available. Chargers are also being installed for its own increasingly electric fleet. At the moment, the city possesses 234 EVs and adds 50 more each year. It is also working with 62 firms to help them transition their own fleet.
In April 2017, then-mayor Denis Coderre launched Jalon MTL, an institute on electric and smart transportation, mandating it to create synergies between regional actors of durable mobility, help commercialize innovation and strike international partnerships. All these efforts are directly in line with the city’s sustainability plan, seeking a 30 per cent GHG emissions reduction (over 1990 levels) by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050. “Montreal considers transport electrification as one tool, among many, to reduce its carbon footprint,” says a city communications officer who was interviewed by e-mail.