Man and woman with electric vehicle charger
The latest Natural Resources Canada RFP, the Zero Emission Vehicle Awareness Initiative, will provide funding to projects throughout Canada between August 2021 and March 2023.

Up to $300,000 will go to projects designed to accelerate adoption by increasing public understanding and confidence in zero-emission vehicles and charging infrastructure, explains Natural Resources Canada’s Thierry Spiess

In June, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) issued a request for proposals for projects under its new Zero Emission Vehicle Awareness Initiative (ZEVAI). NRCan is seeking to fund projects designed to increase awareness and education about the benefits of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) and public charging infrastructure.

The RFP will provide funding to projects throughout Canada between August 2021 and March 2023.

Examples of projects eligible for funding include targeted outreach and awareness campaigns, test drive programs, or the development of training or curriculum for a target audience, such as truck drivers or auto dealers.

Projects run by for-profit organizations are eligible to receive up to 50 per cent of project costs to a maximum of $100,000 if completed by March 2022; and up to $200,000 if they begin before, as long as they are completed by March 2023.

Projects run by non-profit or Indigenous organizations as well as municipal, provincial and territorial governments are eligible to receive up to 75 per cent of project costs to a maximum of $150,000 if completed by March 2022; and up to $300,000 if they begin before and are completed by March 2023.

Electric Autonomy Canada spoke with Thierry Spiess, senior manager, advanced vehicles at Natural Resources Canada about the importance of sustained ZEV education in transitioning to a net-zero future and some of the successful education projects already operational in Canada. 

Below is the transcript of that interview, edited for length and clarity.

Electric Autonomy: This initiative aims to bolster awareness of the benefits of ZEVs across Canada. Why is it that increased education and awareness has the power to play such a crucial role in the transition to ZEV?

Thierry Spiess: We know that barriers to the adoption of zero emission vehicles (ZEV) include higher purchase prices, perceived or real lack of charging infrastructure, and lack of familiarity and knowledge about how these vehicles work — and the government is addressing all three.

A recent survey by the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association shows that lack of familiarity with battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell technology remains one the top barriers to adoption and the recent report by the International Energy Association notes that public awareness campaigns and behavioural changes are essential to reaching net-zero. 

According to Plug’n Drive, 80 per cent of people who have visited the EV Discovery Centre [in Toronto, Ont.] are more likely to buy an electric vehicle, over 30 per cent have bought an electric vehicle and over 60 per cent plan to buy one in the next two years.

The objective of the Zero Emission Vehicle Awareness Initiative is to expand and build public confidence in zero emission vehicles. Awareness and knowledge are foundational to building that confidence.

“The initiative was built based on the premise that knowledge leads to confidence, which leads to action”

Thierry Spiess, Senior Manager, Advanced Vehicles, Natural Resources Canada

EA: Would you say there are geographical gaps in current ZEV awareness that this initiative has the potential to remedy?

Thierry Spiess: Currently, ZEV adoption mainly occurs in urban centres and in regions where there are provincial, territorial and federal incentives and ZEV information is more readily available. We need all Canadians to make the switch to ZEVs, which is why targeted outreach, awareness and education efforts are required to grow confidence for all drivers.

The ZEVAI 2021 Call for Project Proposal aims to support projects across Canada, including in regions where ZEV uptake to-date is low and where public confidence may have not yet been addressed in a meaningful way.

NRCan is also planning to undertake research and engagement over the coming months to help us better understand the differences in knowledge, confidence and views about ZEVs in different parts of the country.

EA: Have there been any ZEV awareness programs, internationally or in Canada, that provide a model for the ideal project the government is looking to help fund?

Thierry Spiess: We have drawn inspiration from international campaigns such as Forth Mobility’s plan to provide equity to education projects in the U.S., California’s ZEV Investment Plan that supports brand-neutral ZEV education and awareness efforts or the UK EV Discovery Centre.

And we have some world-leading projects right here in Canada that have been highly effective in building knowledge and confidence in ZEVs. In North York, Ontario, there’s Plug’n Drive’s Discovery Centre; BC’s Emotive program supports ride-and-drives across that province, and EV Assist and Next Drive in Nova Scotia provide information and experiential opportunities.

The ZEVAI is designed to leverage these existing efforts. The initiative was built based on the premise that knowledge leads to confidence, which leads to action.

We recognize that the ZEV momentum is growing, so we are excited to provide funding to projects that are innovative and collaborative in nature and that either have a national reach or address more localized barriers across different regions. We are also looking for projects that are in line with the government’s priority of equity, diversity and inclusion.

EA: This RFP is for projects to be completed between now and 2023. Would you say ZEV education is a priority with long-term importance, or is it something that mostly will require attention and funding in the short term?

Thierry Spiess: Sustained activities that address ZEV awareness and education are important for a couple of reasons. The technology continues to evolve quickly in ways that we might not be able to envision today. Continually updating information and tools for consumers and businesses will be key. Underrepresented groups would likely continue to benefit from ZEV awareness and education initiatives, to ensure that all Canadians are provided with equitable access to ZEV technologies.

Concerted effort over time ensures Canadians across the country have the confidence to make the switch to a ZEV. It will not happen overnight.