Navigating the “Road to 2035” with industry stakeholders commenting on what’s working and what’s not
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Mar 21, 2022
Mehanaz Yakub

Canadian society is facing a massive transition with widespread adoption of EVs by 2035. Experts discuss the best way to steer industry and the public through the challenges ahead

Three large Canadian automotive associations pilot the initiative, Road to 2035. 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV. Photo: Chevrolet

Canadian society is facing a massive transition with widespread adoption of EVs by 2035. Experts discuss the best way to steer industry and the public through the challenges ahead

Three Canadian automotive industry associations have formed a coalition to launch a new campaign initiative, the Road to 2035, to help Canadians understand what it will take to meet its national zero-emissions vehicle (ZEVs) sales targets.

The Canadian Automobile Dealers Association (CADA), the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association (CVMA) and Global Automakers of Canada (GAC) are collaborating on the Road to 2035. The agenda outlined on its website focuses on the investments and regulations needed to reach 50 per cent ZEV sales by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2035.

CADA is a national organization that represents new car and truck dealers, with 3,200 members across the country. The Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association represents manufacturers of light and heavy-duty motor vehicles, such as Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. While GAC represents the interests of 15 international automakers including BMW, Hyundai, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and more.

The coalition is targeting to bring together stakeholders to help develop a “bold, comprehensive plan” to facilitate the transition to electrification at all levels of government. They are also planning to launch a series of educational events starting this Spring to support the initiative. Although last week, a live virtual media forum was held to introduce the Road to 2035.

“Our ambitious target of zero-emission vehicles by 2035 will change everything about how Canadian families drive,” said Francesco Sorbara, Member of Parliament for Vaughan-Woodbridge riding outside Toronto and keynote speaker at the virtual event. “Canadian companies are leading the way in developing transformative automotive technologies [and] automakers continue to meet the diverse driving needs of Canadians from compact cars to SUVs and pickup trucks.”

Raising consumer incentives

Part of the Road to 2035 mentions four areas where the associations think government action will be needed in order to meet the 2035 sales targets.

  • Enhancing consumer incentives;
  • Investing in charging infrastructure;
  • Building consumer education; and
  • Creating an electric vehicle battery supply chain.

“One of the key drivers of zero-emission vehicle adoption is consumer incentives. It’s very powerful wherever we’ve seen incentives introduced you see an immediate increase in ZEV demand,” said Brian Kingston, president & CEO of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association during the panel discussion.

Through the federal government’s Incentive for Zero-Emission Vehicles (iZEV) rebate program, Canadians can get up to $5,000 off the purchase price of a qualifying electric vehicle with a base price of $45,000. Some provinces and territories such as Quebec, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Yukon and Northwest Territories also offer rebates on EVs that can be stacked on top of the iZEV program. But compared to the U.S. federal government, which will potentially offer over and up to $15,000 in government incentives as part of their Build Back Better Act, means that the Canadian rebate program seems to be falling short.

“An increase in the size of the federal program to match what the U.S. is proposing — so that would be a tripling of iZEV — that would be extremely powerful to get to the 50 per cent target by 2030. Then just to add, some provinces have incentives and others don’t… so I’d like to see all provincial governments step forward and put an incentive in the market and that will be critical to getting us to 2030,” said Kingston.

Boosting awareness and education

As more consumers adopt EVs, building awareness and education about these vehicles and technologies is necessary at all levels, from the government to auto manufacturers, dealers and consumers, noted the panelists at the event.

“It’s clear that manufacturers and dealers…are all in to educate consumers and to also bring these cars to market. There’s a real sense that we’re going through a transition and I think we’re past the stage where consumers think this is not going to last,” said Huw Williams, public affairs at the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association.

In terms of education, David Adams, president & CEO of the Global Automakers of Canada says consumers are nowadays less worried about range anxiety and are more so concerned about the limits of available charging infrastructure.

“There’s a real education effort that needs to be done around how I charge, the number of different charging station providers out there [and] where are they [because] they’re not readily visible from most highways or most roadways and certainly not as visible as gas stations are right at the moment,” says Adams.

“Manufacturers can build the vehicles, dealers can have them on their lots, but if consumers don’t have confidence that this is a technology that can be recharged or used or fit for their family, they just won’t buy them. If they don’t have confidence that this is really a societal transformation that can work, it’s really the role of government to get us there,” says Williams.

Investing in infrastructure

For its part, the federal government plans to install 50,000 more public charging stations across Canada, but that amount is probably not enough, says industry experts.

To meet demands for charging stations, Kingston says the government should first be engaging with charging providers, utilities and OEMs to come up with a comprehensive analysis to figure out what types of chargers are needed and where in order to future proof installations.

“Another thing with the infrastructure that’s very important is the recognition it takes a lot longer for people to charge. So if we have the same number of charging infrastructure as we had gasoline stations, the reality is there’s a five-minute turnover at the gasoline station and there’s probably at least a 30 minute turnover at each charging station. That, in my mind, suscitates that actually [we need] way more charging infrastructure,” adds Adam.

A second point worth addressing, says Kingston is the lack of charging infrastructure available for Canadians living in multi-residential buildings, where they face a barrier of not being able to install a charger sometimes due to living in an older building that does not have the electrical capabilities to accommodate for one.

“We’ve got to focus on building codes for new buildings coming into Canada. But also how do we help convert those older buildings so that Canadians can charge at home because at the end of the day, even if you have the incentives if you cannot find a way to charge your vehicles — it’s not a feasible option, so that’s going to be critical,” says Kingston.

New jobs and retraining workforce

Having a workforce that can maintain the infrastructure and have the knowledge on how these new vehicles and technologies will work is also critical as the transition to electric ramps up.

Electric vehicles are essentially computers on wheels, said Adams, which means that the industry will require a whole new type of technicians and engineers to work on these vehicles and create new jobs.

But Williams adds that both federal and provincial governments are also concerned about helping to reskill individuals to other aspects of the EV supply chain ecosystem to include them in the new automotive industry.

A few OEMs, such as Ford and GM, have launched training programs to help their assembly workforce be prepared for building these new vehicles that are coming to market.

Aligning with the US

In order to successfully meet Canada’s 2035 targets, the group also highlighted the importance of having policies that are consistent within a North American context.

“When I look at what government should be doing I characterize it like this: we’ve got three preconditions and one underpinning factor. The preconditions for success are incentives, infrastructure and education, which I think we’ve covered adequately well. The fourth piece, this underpinning factor, is the regulatory alignment that we have as an integrated North American Industry,” said Kingston.

The group says that aligning with the United States, in regards to vehicle safety and emissions regulations will help Canada reach its ZEV targets because of how integrated the two countries’ auto industries are.

“As we move forward on this path to 2035, it is absolutely critical that we work with the United States and we move in lockstep,” says Kingston. “The U.S. is going to be using the emissions regulations to drive electrification, we need to align at the federal U.S. level and continue to do so.”

Keeping in line with the U.S. policies is one reason why these Canadian associations do not believe it is a good idea for the federal government to impose a zero-emission vehicle mandate to force manufacturers to sell a certain percentage of EVs per year.

“From our perspective, there’s no need to force manufacturers because we’re well on the way to transitioning. There’s no turning back. This is a societal and an industry disruptive change [that is happening] from one energy source to another,” said Adams.

The Road to 100% Zero-emission Vehicles by 2035 live virtual event was moderated by Electric Autonomy Canada’s managing editor, Emma Jarratt.

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