Canada’s ZEV policy road map could be inspired by the City of Vancouver
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Jul 13, 2021
Daniel Breton

Electric Mobility Canada’s Daniel Breton examines how policies implemented by the City of Vancouver should inform Canada’s national plan

Canadian flags fly in front of tower buildings in Vancouver, B.C.

Electric Mobility Canada’s Daniel Breton examines how policies implemented by the City of Vancouver could inform Canada’s national plan

In June 2021 the Government of Canada announced a more ambitious target of 100 per cent zero emission vehicle (ZEV) sales by 2035. This target advances Canada’s original goal of 2040 by five years and officially aligns the country with leading North American jurisdictions Quebec and California.

At the same time the accelerated targeted was announced, Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s environment minister, also stated that Canada would adopt the most stringent vehicle emissions standards in the U.S., federally or at a state level. Wilkinson said Canada will even go so far as to look at other types of regulations should the U.S. measures not be strong enough to reach Canada’s target.

We have yet to see or hear what those non-American measures could be. As noted by the government, that policy road map will be detailed in the coming months in consultation with industry, municipalities, non-profits and other relevant stakeholders.

Taking a cue from municipalities

There is a significant amount of expertise and innovation in Canada’s electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem for the Government of Canada to draw support to achieve and even exceed its targets. This includes Canadian municipalities who are leading the way globally in terms of policy innovation and public infrastructure.

A number of Canadian municipalities have set equally ambitious targets for both ZEVs and climate. In January 2019, the City of Vancouver declared a climate emergency, signalling a high level of concern about the climate crisis and the need for accelerated and coordinated action. Their Climate Emergency Action Plan identified six “Big Moves”: a package of policies and actions focused on burning less fossil fuels in Vancouver’s transportation and buildings; city operations to dramatically reduce emissions, improve equity; and prioritizing public health, communities and building a resilient city with a strong green economy. 

The City’s plan also focuses on reducing driving by supporting people looking to get around by walking, cycling or transit.

One critical component is Big Move 3, which focuses on ZEVs. It has a clear goal that 50 per cent of all kilometres driven on Vancouver’s roads will be by ZEVs by 2030 — meaning that almost all new passenger vehicles purchased after 2030 will need to be ZEVs.

That’s five years sooner than the federal government’s new target.

How will they do it?

To meet their ambitious ZEV targets, Vancouver laid out a comprehensive plan to encourage the shift to electric mobility. Most importantly, the targets aim to make electric mobility options more accessible to everyone.

The plan includes: expanding the public EV charging network that currently has over 350 charging points; increasing EV charging on private property; supporting EV charging infrastructure for passenger fleets; and implementing on-street residential parking permits citywide, with a surcharge on new vehicles that pollute.

This month, city staff presented a report to Council that further advances “Big Move 3” goals with a focus on making charging more accessible across Vancouver in new non-residential buildings.

The actions identified in this report will support more residents and businesses as they transition from fossil fuels to electric vehicles. The updates to new construction make sense, as it is easier to make a stall EV-ready in the construction phase than it is to retrofit later on.

Vancouver’s example

Vancouver has already had success with similar policies, which require 100 per cent of residential stalls in new multi-unit residential buildings to include EV charging infrastructure. For those that do not have charging available at home, they will benefit from an increase in EV charging in stalls in new commercial buildings at work, shopping centres, other amenities or hotel stays.

With 10.9 per cent of 2020 new vehicle sales in Vancouver being ZEVs compared to eight per cent in Montreal and 2.4 per cent in Toronto, Vancouver leads large Canadian cities in ZEV adoption, thanks to their EV policies and infrastructure.

This number will continue to climb over the coming years. As the Canadian government looks to develop its policy action plan to meet its updated targets, we encourage municipal and federal government to share the lessons they’ve learned and their best practices. This is not just in terms of the policies themselves, but the framework for establishing both ambitious targets and a strong plan to get us there.

And Vancouver certainly is an inspiring example.

Daniel Breton EMC

Daniel Breton is President and CEO of Electric Mobility Canada (EMC), a national membership-based not-for-profit organization dedicated exclusively to the advancement of e-mobility.

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