Toronto City Council votes to adopt electric vehicle strategy, joining other major Canadian cities
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Jan 30, 2020
Luke Sarabia

Canada’s largest city has approved a plan to reach 100 per cent zero emissions from personal vehicles by 2050, through expansion of public charging networks, financial incentives, building code updates and more

Canada’s largest city has approved a plan to reach 100 per cent zero emissions from personal vehicles by 2050, through expansion of public charging networks, financial incentives, building code updates and more

Toronto’s city council voted Thursday to adopt a comprehensive strategy for the integration of electric vehicles into the city fabric. The strategy, which was prepared by Dunsky Consulting, outlines 10 key actions the city can take to make 100 per cent of the city’s passenger light-duty vehicles zero-emission by 2050.

“It’s a really important report for Toronto, and that’s because transportation emissions… have a huge impact on our greenhouse gas emission profile in the city,” said Councillor Brad Bradford. “This is direction for us on how to address those challenges.”

According to the report, adopting electric vehicles will allow the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (of which passenger vehicles represented 30 per cent of in 2017) and improve resident health. It will also strengthen its local economy, as residents will retain more disposable income due to the relatively low cost of fuelling and maintaining EVs.

Interim goals before 2050 include five per cent of registered personal vehicles being EVs by 2025, 20 per cent by 2030, and 80 per cent by 2040. Currently, 0.6 per cent of Toronto’s vehicles are electric. 

The item was adopted with four additional amendments. The first, moved by Councillor Layton, was a request that Mayor Tory sign the C40 Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets Declaration. The Declaration, which a number of cities globally have signed, would mean committing to electrify public transit fleets and ensuring that a major area of the city be completely zero-emission by 2030. Another, proposed by Councillor Gord Perks, requested that future status updates on the strategy’s progress should include comprehensive information on how electrification is expected to impact the city’s grid systems.

“I think this is our attempt to get out a little bit in front of a global trend towards electric vehicles, which is a necessary step,” said city councillor Mike Layton, who brought forth the motion before council.

Short and long-term goals

Immediate actions recommended include the expansion of public charging infrastructure and development of public charging policies and regulations. This would include the installation of 650 DC fast chargers and 10,000 Level 2 charging ports in public by 2030 in order to accommodate the expected uptake of electric vehicles. It would also include the updating of building codes to ensure all parking spaces in new buildings are EV-ready.

“The City has a large portion of MURB (multi-use residential building) residents, without access to a garage or driveway, who do not have this option,” the strategy notes. “Both real and perceived lack of public charging contributes to range anxiety… which makes consumers less likely to switch to EVs.”

Additional short-term actions identified include increasing the number of EVs used in shared mobility programs, expanding public awareness of the environmental and economic benefits of EVs, and continued electrification of the city’s own fleets.

The strategy also examines key financial and non-financial incentives to encourage drivers to buy zero-emission vehicles. Potential initiatives in this area could include reducing road tolls for EVs or establishing pilot low- or no-emission-vehicles-only zones.

Other medium and longer-term actions outlined include advocacy with other levels of government and continued support of research and innovation in electric vehicle technology.

Toronto joins the pack

The role which municipalities can play in advancing electrification is a major one. A recent report by the International Council on Clean Transportation examining the top 25 cities with the most electric vehicles internationally found that municipal policies were often the most effective in encouraging EV adoption.

“Local governments have often set even bolder goals [than federal governments] and developed unique promotion actions, resulting in significantly higher uptake within specific local markets,” the report read.

As such, several strategies included in Toronto’s blueprint have already seen proven success internationally. The majority of the 25 “EV capitals” on the list have introduced tax or other financial incentives to owning EVs, and many have robust public charging networks.

Five of these cities (Paris, Los Angeles, Oslo, Tokyo, and London) have pledged to make a major area of their city zero-emission by 2030. London’s first zero-emission street, which will allow for the monitoring of changes in air quality and traffic conditions, is set to be launched this spring. Such a project could prove a useful model for a similar trial in Toronto.

Canadian cities which have also adopted municipal electric vehicle strategies include Montréal, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.

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