As Canada’s first electric car manufacturing plant opens municipalities need to ramp up accommodation of green vehicles
Electric delivery vans rolled hot off the production line recently as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford made an appearance two weeks ago in Ingersoll to celebrate the opening of Canada’s first manufacturing plant for fully electric vehicles.
The small town in Oxford County, a 30-minute drive west of London, in southwestern Ontario, is home to the General Motors of Canada (GM) CAMI production plant which was retooled to build the company’s Bright Drop all electric delivery vans.
“Electric-vehicle manufacturing in Canada is no longer something that’s happening in the future,” Marissa West, President and Managing Director of General Motors, said. “It's here and it's now. That’s good for Canada, and good for the planet."
Both the Prime Minister and the Premier were in attendance for the announcement despite their contradicting actions on electric vehicles (EVs).
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in attendance to officially launch Canada’s first manufacturing plant dedicated to electric vehicles.
At the federal level, the Canadian government has set a mandatory target for all new light-duty cars and trucks to be zero emissions by 2035, and the Liberals have just proposed a target to require all passenger vehicles sold in the country be electric by 2035. The draft regulations require that twenty percent of all vehicle sales be electric starting in 2026. In order to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles, there is a $5,000 government incentive for those who purchase a new electric vehicle.
Meanwhile, almost immediately after first taking office at Queen’s Park, in 2018, Doug Ford and his PC government eliminated provincial subsidies for EVs and cancelled planned investments in charging stations across the province. Ahead of the June provincial election this year, Ford’s stance seemed to have wavered as he announced $91 million to expand charging infrastructure at stops along the province’s major highways and set a target of 400,000 EVs manufactured in Ontario by 2030.
Critics pointed to the contradiction in Ford’s policies, after he eliminated EV subsidies for Ontario residents seeking to buy an electric vehicle, but pledged to push the production of the same vehicles in the province, most of which are shipped elsewhere.
The Premier’s flip-flopping on EV policy comes as Statistics Canada data shows about 1 in 14 new vehicles registered in Canada in the first half of the year were electric. Ontario, after Ford cut the subsidy, is falling below average with 1 in 20 new vehicles registered in the province being electric during the same period.
Ford has refused to budge on policies that could have a dramatic impact on EV sales across the province; the PCs will not commit to the reintroduction of subsidies and changes to the provincial Building Code requiring chargers in all new homes.
With little support from the Ontario government, municipalities are largely on their own to develop plans to meet ambitious federal directives for EV uptake.
In October, research published in collaboration between consulting firm Dunsky (which helps clients improve energy efficiency), Low Carbon Cities Canada, the Green Municipal Fund and The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) set out six priority municipal actions to accelerate the adoption of zero emissions vehicles.
“Many people think that the federal government and the provincial government hold all of the powerful levers from mandating zero emissions vehicle supply requirements to offering incentives on cars and charging,” Ian Klesmer, Director of Strategy and Grants and electric vehicle spokesperson at TAF, said. “But what's often overlooked is that municipalities who are closest to the people actually have a variety of tools at their disposal.”
Earlier this year, TAF released its 2021 Carbon Emissions Inventory which determined that 35 percent of all emissions in Peel Region arose from the transportation sector. According to Klesmer, when breaking down the suite of climate solutions municipalities have at their disposal, electrification is the single most effective transportation action that can be taken.
In June, Peel’s Climate Change Partnership (PCCP), which includes the Town of Caledon, City of Brampton, City of Mississauga, Region of Peel, Credit Valley Conservation and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, published the Region’s first zero emissions vehicle strategy developed with the goal of accelerating uptake of EVs among Peel residents and businesses over the next five years.
“As the Region continues to grow, the way we move is expected to change but there will continue to be a role for the light duty vehicle,” Jodi Robillos, Chair of the Peel Climate Change Partnership and Commissioner of Community Services at the City of Mississauga, said in her opening message to Peel’s ZEV strategy. “Our goal is to ensure that the residents and businesses within Peel Region have the necessary resources and information to rapidly transition to zero emission vehicles to continue on the road to a low carbon healthier community.”
A critical factor in the transition to electric vehicles will be the increased availability of charging infrastructure.
(Alexis Wright/The Pointer files)
While the plan is a big step forward for the Region, there are areas where Peel can learn from other Regions and municipalities across the country.
Here is where Peel stands on the six priorities outlined by TAF.
Creating advantages for EVs
For many, the switch from driving a Carbon fueled vehicle to an EV, conceptually, seems the same as moving away from old telecommunications technology less than thirty years ago, with rotary phones connected to wires. The idea of having a computer/phone/camera and access to a world-shrinking platform called the internet all in a small rectangular handheld object, was straight out of Hollywood science fiction.
The technology for EVs is here and charging infrastructure is quickly spreading. But political leaders like Ford seem stuck in the past, unable to transition the province to the reality of the future.
Incentivizing EVs so that they are more affordable to consumers is a major step in increasing the adoption of these vehicles.
One of the arguments continuously cited against EVs is their cost. A Peel survey found that “cost too high to purchase” is the number one reason respondents were unlikely to switch to an EV.
“There is an interest from some residents in purchasing a ZEV in the next five years (22 percent), however, further uptake was hindered by cost, a lack of charging stations, and limited knowledge of the technology,” Peel’s strategy points out.
Views about the upfront cost of a vehicle often fail to consider the long-term benefits. A 2020 study by Consumer Reports found fuel cost savings after the purchase of a battery electric vehicle are estimated to be around 60 percent. These savings will only increase as carbon-based fuel prices continue to rise and battery technology rapidly improves, making it less expensive.
Neither Caledon nor Mississauga are planning to provide subsidies at the municipal level. The only cash incentive for Peel residents is the federal government’s subsidy. But there are other ways cities can make owning an EV more appealing.
The City of Montreal is working to encourage the adoption of EVs by offering drivers a preferential rate for on street parking permits. The City’s electrification strategy “proposes modulating parking rates throughout Montreal in order to reduce vehicle dependency, thus improving the quality of life of citizens and reducing the environmental impact without affecting economic vitality”.
Making parking cheaper for EV users, especially in car-heavy municipalities, is another strategy that can decrease the overall cost of EVs compared to carbon-powered vehicles.
Developing a reliable charging network
Some municipalities hesitate to invest in EV infrastructure due to uncertainty around demand. But a lack of charging infrastructure is one of the main reasons cited by consumers for their reluctance to purchase an EV.
“That's certainly a chicken and egg problem that's plagued the sector for a long time,” Klesmer said.
According to Peel’s strategy, about two thirds of residents support installing public charging infrastructure at municipal facilities.
“Enhancing awareness on charging locations and promoting consistent availability across the community is essential for a fair transition to electric vehicles,” the Region’s strategy suggests.
Charging infrastructure needs to be present at home and at work, but also while drivers are on the go. The PC government’s promise to expand charging infrastructure along 400-series highways is a start, but municipalities have the authority and the responsibility to build charging infrastructure within their own boundaries.
The PC’s made the announcement in March, ahead of the June election, committing $91 million toward the construction of charging stations so potential EV buyers won’t be as reluctant due to concerns about the lack of chargers especially when driving long distances.
The PCs pledged, at the time, to launch the Rural Connectivity Fund, to provide smaller municipalities money to build charging stations, as an incentive outside larger urban areas where there is less concern about needing to drive long distances. The strategy would also fold outlying communities into the broader EV infrastructure network.
But since the June election, the PC government has been quiet on its charging infrastructure pledge. While Ford has stormed ahead with his developer friendly housing plan which will create more sprawl, he has failed to simultaneously introduce a transportation plan aligned with his commitment to build 1.5 new homes by 2031. Charging infrastructure where the rapid growth will occur would at least mitigate some of the increased emissions created by longer commutes, but there have been no announcements since the election detailing how and where the PCs plan to create more charging infrastructure.
This places more pressure on municipalities.
As of March the Province reported there were about 1,800 public charging stations in Ontario with more than 5,000 charging ports; 32 Level-2 EV chargers (which provide about 50 kilometres of driving range per hour of charge time, on average, compared to a Level-1 which provides about 6.5 kilometres) were located at public carpool parking lots that offer free charging.
This is miles away from where Ontario needs to be if consumers are to feel they are part of a large province-wide charging network that has no, or few gaps.
By comparison, Holland had about 90,000 public chargers at the end of 2021. Canada’s federal government has fallen behind countries such as Germany, China and Holland, which are investing heavily in EV charging infrastructure.
In geographically larger countries like China, the U.S. and Canada, wide-ranging charging infrastructure is crucial, as drivers travel longer distances far more often than people in a place such as Holland. To allay fears of being stranded on a highway with no charging station in sight, as the 400-kilometre range on your EV is at zero, governments need to assure potential buyers that this scenario will never happen.
Municipalities need to do their part, as towns and cities can provide the needed connectivity between points in a vast EV network.
Installation of charging infrastructure at publicly owned facilities—community centres or parks—and other municipal buildings like City Hall is already starting across the Region of Peel. The three lower-tier municipalities within the Region each have their own funding dedicated toward expanding charging infrastructure.
PCCP members have installed 129 public chargers so far. The partnership has also received $1,177,000 through the Natural Resources Canada’s Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program since 2019 to support the installation of 192 chargers including five Level-3 fast chargers, which can add as much as 250 kilometres of range per hour of charging time.
Peel is comparable to other municipalities—The City of Ottawa has 52 Level-2 chargers and two fast chargers; Montreal has installed almost 1,000 chargers around the City. The City of Vancouver has taken it a step further, implementing a fee for gas stations and large parking lots that do not have EV charging stations.
Enabling EV-ready retrofits in existing buildings
One of the most difficult aspects of integrating EVs into current built landscapes is the addition of charging stations to existing infrastructure. The cost of adding charging infrastructure to existing buildings is far greater than the cost of adding it to buildings during the construction process. Numbers for Vacouver indicate that retrofitting existing buildings with charging infrastructure can cost between $50,000 and $100,000 beyond the price of the charging unit itself, whereas adding a charger during the construction process has relatively no extra cost. For the full adoption of EVs across cities, all infrastructure will need to be equipped with the appropriate charging systems.
“The greatest motivation to invest in ZEV chargers is to stay ahead of the curve as requests from tenants, employees, and customers continue to rise,” Peel’s EV strategy explains.
Peel’s Climate Change Partnership (PCCP) received $652,000 through Natural Resources Canada’s Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program to support the expansion of EV chargers, and all three lower-tier municipalities in Peel have a portion of their capital budgets dedicated to EV charging infrastructure.
The City of Vancouver began the installation of EV chargers in all new buildings in 2018, and has since moved toward retrofitting existing buildings with the necessary infrastructure. According to the City’s website “owners or building managers of existing rental buildings, who meet the eligibility requirements, can apply to have City-owned EV chargers installed in their buildings for use by their tenants”.
Vancouver will pay up to $93,000 for the charging infrastructure provided the applicant makes their own $2,000 contribution.
Currently, none of the three municipalities in the Region of Peel are providing funding to individuals or businesses for charging infrastructure.
Ensuring all new buildings are EV-ready
If EVs are to be a big part of sustainable transportation strategies, it only makes sense that all new buildings be constructed with this in mind. According to Peel’s strategy, 70 to 80 percent of charging of EVs occurs at home or in the workplace parking lot. This means that both of these places need to be fit with enough charging stations to satisfy the needs of residents and workers.
Under former premier Kathleen Wynne, the Building Code required all new homes to be built with 200-amp panels that would make it simpler and cheaper to fit buildings with EV chargers. When first elected in 2018, Ford removed this provision from the Building Code citing a higher upfront cost for homebuyers. However, without the addition of panels at the time of building, it will cost a lot more to retrofit homes with the appropriate charging infrastructure.
As part of Peel’s strategy, the Region is advocating changes to the Building Code to reinstate the requirement for charging infrastructure in new homes. Peel municipalities are also in the process of amending parking bylaws to advance ZEV requirements in new developments. When developers propose new commercial projects that contain large parking lots, the three lower-tier municipalities will require a fixed number of EV charging stations, under the strategy.
The Atmospheric Fund’s joint Priority Municipal Actions suggests enacting bylaw requirements for EV charging at new residential and non-residential buildings. According to TAF, over a dozen municipalities across Canada have EV construction bylaws. Toronto passed a zoning bylaw in March of this year that requires most low and high-rise residential buildings to contain 100 percent EV-ready parking spaces. In addition, 25 percent of spaces in non-residential buildings must be EV-ready.
Ramping up ZEV adoption in municipal transit fleets
According to TAF’s 2021 Carbon Emissions Inventory, transportation accounts for 35 percent of Peel’s community emissions, second only to buildings. These emissions take into account personal transportation for cars but also public transportation such as buses.
Both the City of Mississauga and the City of Brampton have made moves toward electrifying their transit fleets. Earlier this year, Mississauga’s transit fleet, MiWay, announced that it would no longer purchase any new diesel buses. The City also received $500 million in federal and provincial funding toward three key projects which included the purchase of 314 new hybrid electric buses and the replacement of 44 diesel vehicles.
One of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions for municipalities is diesel-powered transit fleets.
(The Pointer files)
Through different funding, the City of Mississauga undertook an On-Route Charging Feasibility Study to assess potential locations for on-route charging assuming minimal charging infrastructure at the fleet garage.
“[Y]ou must invest in chargers and electrical infrastructure on the street and/or terminals which is expensive,” the City previously told The Pointer.
While Brampton has begun discussing the viability of electrifying its fleet, it is significantly behind Mississauga. The City’s mayor, Patrick Brown has repeatedly misled the public while campaigning to be the CPC leader and then mayor, after he was disqualified from the federal race. Contrary to his false claims, Brampton does not have a fully electric bus fleet, it is almost entirely still diesel, partly due to Brown’s failure to expand the transit budget while mayor.
The City received $175,000 in funding from the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium in July. The City is also arranging funding through the Canadian Infrastructure Bank (CIB) which will allow for the purchase of battery electric buses (BEBs).
“The statement within the staff report noting that ‘BEBs are expected to be in operation through to the earliest 2044.’ is in reference to the minimum length of time that Brampton Transit will operate BEBs under the City’s financing arrangement with the CIB,” a City spokesperson explained to The Pointer in an email.
Despite the external funding, Brampton has no item in its Capital Budget dedicated to a greener transit fleet. It has also fallen far behind under Brown in creating infrastructure to support an electric transit fleet.
As a place targeted for continued rapid growth, Peel and its municipalities have a significant role to play in the adoption of more sustainable transit systems.
Other municipalities across Ontario and Canada are leading the way. The City of Ottawa announced a plan to add 450 e-buses to its fleet by 2027, with the end goal of an entirely electric fleet by 2036. On June 23, 2021, the motion was received by Council that “the City purchase zero-emission buses for all future transit bus fleet needs, on the basis that buses are available to meet the City’s operational needs and subject to financial arrangements on terms and conditions acceptable to the City so that the purchase, transition, operation, and support is affordable under the City’s Long Range Financial Plan (LRFP) for Transit”.
Encouraging electrification of other fleets
Uber, Lyft and taxis are becoming more and more popular modes of transportation for people and they play a broader role in transportation emissions. Currently Uber has the option for riders to choose a driver with an EV or a hybrid, but the choice comes with a higher cost to the rider.
The joint report by The Atmospheric Fund suggests revising bylaws so that all ridesharing vehicles are emissions free by 2030. Under regulations for rideshare companies, vehicles can only be a certain age meaning as time progresses it is likely more and more will become EVs.
Municipalities can impose requirements to green ridesharing fleets.
Calgary’s 2021 Parking Policy sets out fees for car share vehicles with a 50 percent reduction for EVs.
Currently the Region of Peel’s strategy does not highlight the need to make ridesharing vehicles electric.
Peel’s municipalities can also enact policies and approve budgets that accelerate the greening of fleets outside transit operations.
Mississauga introduced its Green Fleet and Equipment Policy two years ago, to prioritize “investment in low and zero-emissions fleet, equipment and infrastructure; the Electric Vehicle Charging Station Standard will guide the installation of electric vehicle chargers on City property.”
“In 2017, we found that 78 per cent of Corporate emissions come from the City’s fleet and equipment. We need to make drastic changes if we want to reduce 40 per cent of the City’s GHGs by 2030,” Jodi Robillos said at the time. “This policy is a critical first step that lays the foundation for staff. It prioritizes the purchase of low or zero-emissions fleet and equipment, as well as improves the use of our existing fleet and equipment. Greening our fleet and equipment could lead to a 28 per cent reduction in Corporate GHG emissions and will help us reach our reduction target of 40 per cent by 2030.”
Three years ago Mississauga Council passed a motion to reduce 80 percent of Mississauga’s GHG emissions by 2050.
To do this, she said between 2020 and 2030, the City will try to replace “more than 50 per cent of our light-duty fleet and equipment, all of Fire’s support vehicles and almost all of MiWay’s fleet, which includes buses and support vehicles.”
Only with significant investments for electric vehicle infrastructure, by all levels of government, will these lofty commitments be met.
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