Electric mobility in Canada: Now is the time to be bolder
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Aug 25, 2021
Daniel Breton

Accelerating the development of the electrification of transport will end up saving thousands of Canadian lives and billions of dollars while creating hundreds of thousands of high paying and high-quality sustainable jobs across the country, says EMC’s Daniel Breton

Accelerating the development of the electrification of transport will end up saving thousands of Canadian lives and billions of dollars while creating hundreds of thousands of high paying and high-quality sustainable jobs across the country, says EMC’s Daniel Breton

On September 20, Canadians will be invited to choose who they want for members of Parliament. Among other issues, climate change, air pollution and a green economic recovery through electric mobility must be at the heart of the campaign.

This summer the focus on climate has dominated. From forest fires to droughts to poor air quality, we as a global community are all impacted. The clues around us were summed up recently in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, published in August, and the findings could not be clearer about the state of the environment.

As climate science is getting more precise, “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land,” and that the planet will keep heating up for at least another 30 years, no matter what we do. The report also found that of the changes are happening more quickly than centuries or millennials ago. We are currently seeing the highest concentrations of CO2 over the past two million years.

There are three fundamental reasons why Canada should support the acceleration of the transportation electrification sector: air pollution and its impact on health, climate change and the economy.

We are indeed in a climate crisis and we must act now.

Air pollution & health

According to the 2021 report published by Health Canada titled “Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Canada: Estimates of morbidity and premature mortality outcomes,” which estimates that:

  • 15,300 deaths per year can be attributed to air pollution in Canada, eight times the death toll from motor vehicle accidents.
  • $120 billion a year is the total annual economic cost of health outcomes associated with air pollution

According to a 2020 Environment Canada report, a significant part of that air pollution comes from transportation. In 2019, the sector accounted for:

  • 37 per cent of Canada’s Carbon Monoxide (CO) emissions,
  • 37 per cent of Canada’s Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) emissions
  • 30 per cent of Canada’s Black Carbon emissions

Passenger cars and light trucks are an important source of pollutants, especially in urban centres. In 2019, passenger cars, light trucks and motorcycles represented 26 per cent of Canada’s CO, eight per cent of NOx and seven per cent of volatile organic compound (VOCs) emissions.

Climate change

Since April 2021, Canada has a new, more ambitious GHG emission reduction target for 2030. The government is aiming to reduce emissions by 40 to 45 per cent compared to the levels recorded in 2005. According to a 2021 Environment Canada report, in the 14 years between 2005 and 2019, GHG emissions in Canada decreased by only one per cent.

Therefore, Canada needs to lower its GHG emissions by another 39 per cent to 44 per cent in the remaining nine years until 2030. Between 2005 and 2019, GHG emissions from light duty passengers vehicles increased by eight per cent.

According to a 2019 report from the International Energy Agency, Canada’s light duty passenger fleet is the number one in the world for GHG emissions per kilometre driven. They are also the largest and second heaviest in the world.

Twenty-five per cent of Canada’s Greenhouse Gas emissions comes from transportation. But when we take into account upstream emissions to produce the fuel necessary to propel different types of vehicles, we must add at least 24 per cent to the tailpipe GHG emissions from the transportation sector. This means that total GHG emissions from transportation (tailpipe emissions + upstream emissions) represent at least 31 per cent of Canada’s total GHG emissions making transportation the primary source of GHG emissions in Canada.

The economy

According to 2019 report from Clean Energy Canada, there will be approximately 560,000 jobs in the clean energy sector by 2030, with almost 50 per cent in clean transport.

According to a 2020 report by Electric Mobility Canada, if Canada adopts a strong electric mobility strategy inspired by those of California, B.C. or Quebec, we can anticipate at least $200 billion in sales revenue between now and 2030 in the EV sector.  These jobs will be created in mining, research and development, assembly, sales, marketing, engineering, chemistry, construction, electricity, administration, environment, electricity production & distribution and they will be located from B.C. to Atlantic Canada.                                                                                                                                          

Knowing all that, it’s clear for us at EMC that not only is Canada at a crossroads regarding the fight against climate change and air pollution, but that Canada has a historic opportunity to create high paying and high quality sustainable Canadian jobs in electric mobility from B.C. to Atlantic Canada.

The role of electric mobility

In order to achieve these climate and EV adoption goals, Canada needs to do more than just follow the U.S. federal regulations, which is what the Trudeau government recently said they intended to do when it comes to electric light duty vehicles.

While we are well aware of the fact that the two markets are integrated, we can be inspired by what’s currently happening in California or even in B.C. and Quebec, our two leading provinces regarding EV adoption. Both provinces implemented ZEV mandates. It is because of these mandates, along with other programs such as ZEV rebates and infrastructure deployment, that these two provinces achieved 9.4 per cent ZEV sales in Québec and 10.6 per cent in B.C. during Q2 2021 compared to just three per cent in Ontario. At the municipal level, Toronto’s registration volume of 3.7 per cent is well behind Montreal at 10.4 per cent and Vancouver at 12.1 per cent.

Canada will only be able to reach its 2035 100 per cent Light Duty ZEV sales target through a federal ZEV mandate, as well as GHG regulations, education programs, infrastructure deployment, EV rebates and ZEV supply chain investment.

For environmental, health, and economic reasons, Canada must be bolder.

We must lead the way instead of simply following the federal U.S government — especially since, according to the August 2021 EPA report, the U.S. proposed tailpipe emission regulations will only amount to eight per cent ZEVs sales by 2026 and that the US federal 50 per cent ZEV sales target by 2030 is voluntary and not regulatory.

Transportation electrification is not the only solution to these climate change, air pollution, health and economic recovery challenges, but in combination with public transit, active transportation, carpooling, car-sharing and telecommuting, it is absolutely an important piece of the puzzle.

And this federal election campaign certainly is the perfect time to discuss these important issues.

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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