Converting fleets to electric vehicles: examples include buses, UPS delivery, and the U.S. Postal Service

The federal government’s announcement of new fuel-efficiency standards for light-duty trucks and buses on June 14  presents an opportunity for electric vehicles in Canada, according to an article by Clean Energy Canada.  “Electric buses and trucks a big (rig) opportunity for Canadian innovators”   argues that the new regulations will  limit the lifespan of heavy- and medium-duty trucks in Canada, by requiring the older, more polluting vehicles to be replaced by cleaner vehicles. The article provides an overview of examples. electric school bus

Canadian examples: An article from Corporate Knights magazine in January 2018:  “The e-bus revolution has arrived”. In March, Winnipeg Transit released the first Report  on its Bus Electrification Demonstration Project   which began in 2015  ( summarized by the CBC here) . Winnipeg is home to the New Flyer Industries, which manufactures the battery-electric buses in use.  The government of Quebec announced its Sustainable Mobility Plan in April 2018, with an emphasis on transit and electrification.   New Flyer buses, along with those from Nova Bus from Quebec  are being tested in the Pan-Ontario  and Pan-Canadian Electric Bus Demonstration and Integration Trials , launched in April 2018 and coordinated by Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC- CRITUC) .  Their CUTRIC-CRITUC news site provides updates; their 2018 Biennial Forum, Building Low-Carbon Smart Mobility Projects Across Canada,  gathered industry players in Montreal, June 21 and 22.

U.S. News:  A June 21 article in the New York Times cites many examples of electric fleet conversion.  “Buses, Delivery Vans and Garbage Trucks Are the Electric Vehicles Next Door” in the (June 21)  highlights the  Antelope Valley Transit Authority in Los Angeles County, which intends to replace all diesel buses with 80 fully-electric ones in 2018; the Chicago Transit Authority (planning to buy 20 electric buses) ; San Francisco ( will convert to electric-only  bus procurement starting in 2025, aiming for an all-electric fleet by 2035), as well as the  Los Angeles Sanitation department for garbage trucks, Duke Energy for pick-up trucks.  An article in Cleantechnica,  “UPS Places Order For 950 Workhorse N-GEN Electric Delivery Vans”  describes Workhorse products,  which include the  N-GEN  vans sold to UPS and which are also competing (with partner VT Hackney)  in the US Postal Service procurement process for Next Generation Delivery Vehicles.  The N-GEN vans offer an option to include the Horsefly autonomous delivery drones . workhorse electric van and drone

The Transportation Electrification Accord (TEA) was officially launched in Portland, Oregon at the EV Roadmap 11 conference on June 19. In fact, the Accord was first signed  in November 2017 , according to the Sierra Club  press release which describes it and lists the original signatories, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers District Nine, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, as well as Plug In America, and industry organizations Advanced Energy Economy, Energy Foundation, Enervee, Illinois Citizens Utility Board,  Proterra, and Siemens. Honda and General Motors signed on at the June 19 launch.

The “Accord” is a voluntary statement of eleven principles, meant to educate policymakers and inspire change. The first two principles are:  1.  There is a clear case on both policy and regulatory grounds for electrifying transportation, which can provide benefits to all consumers (including the socioeconomically disadvantaged), advance economic development, create jobs, provide grid services, integrate more renewable energy, and cut air pollution and greenhouse gases.

2. Electrified transportation should include not only light-duty passenger vehicles, but also heavy-duty vehicles (e.g., transit buses and delivery trucks), as well as off-road equipment (e.g., airport and port electrification equipment).

Globally:  A March 2018 report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the C-40 Leadership Initiative provides a great overview of statistics and analysis:  Electric buses in cities   and demonstrates the strength of China’s leadership.  The city of  Shensen has been seen as the poster child of this strength – for example, read the blog from the World Resources Institute in April 2018 “How did Shenshen China build the world’s largest electric bus fleet?“.   The Global EV Outlook 2018 released by the  International Energy Association at the end of May focuses mostly on the growth of personal vehicles, but reported that the stock of electric buses rose from 345,000 in 2016 to 370,000 in 2017 , (with electric two-wheelers at 250 million). Growth has been driven almost entirely by China, which accounts for more than 99% of both electric bus and two-wheeler stock.

 

New fuel regulations aim to reduce emissions from Canada’s freight industry

With freight transportation producing approximately 10 percent of Canada’s total emissions, on June 14, Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister announced   new carbon-pollution regulations for heavy-duty vehicles, defined as  “ school buses, transport tractors and trailers, garbage trucks, delivery vans, and larger pick-up trucks”. The regulations begin in 2020, and become increasingly stringent with each passing year – with a goal to reduce carbon pollution by approximately 6 million tonnes a year by 2030.

state of freight coverThe Pembina Institute welcomes the regulations here, with reference to its detailed report on the issue:  State of Freight ( June 2017),  and also an OpEd from Policy Options in April 2018, “On vehicle emissions standards, it’s time Canada divorced the U.S.” .   “McKenna touts new climate pollution controls for large trucks and buses”  in the National Observer (June 14) includes a discussion of the Canada-U.S. alignment over fuel standards.

In May, the Conference Board of Canada released  Greening Freight: Pathways to GHG Reductions in the Trucking Sector, which recommends several ways to help reduce emissions from freight transport,  including the adoption of established fuel-saving technologies, carbon pricing, and disruptive technologies such as electric zero-emission and driverless trucks. The report is available from this link (free, registration required).

Also on this topic, an article by researchers from the University of British Columbia’s Clean Energy Research Centre appeared in  the April 2018 issue of Energy Policy“Electrification of road freight transport: Policy implications in British Columbia” concludes that all-electric  trucks could  reduce 64% of the emissions from road freight transport in the province by 2040, if 65% of trucks ran on 100% hydroelectric power. However, the demand created would overwhelm the supply available – therefore, the authors call for new policies “to support diversified renewable electricity generation and low-carbon pathways. For example, carbon capture and sequestration coupled with provincial reserves of natural gas can enable low-carbon hydrogen production and decrease the electricity requirements for zero-emission vehicles in B.C.”  An article on the CBC website summarizes the academic article.

 

A closer look at electric vehicle growth: impact on pollution, and labour conditions in the mines supplying raw materials

solar-power-1020194_1920The summer started with several “good news” stories about the surge of electric vehicles, such as “Starting in 2019, Volvo will use electricity to power every new model” from the Washington Post (July 5) , quoting Volvo’s CEO :  “This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car.”  Bloomberg Business Week, summarizing the findings of its latest New Energy forecast,  stated on July 7, “in just eight years, electric cars will be as cheap as gasoline vehicles, pushing the global fleet to 530 million vehicles by 2040″, and “Electric cars will outsell fossil-fuel powered vehicles within two decades as battery prices plunge, turning the global auto industry upside down and signaling economic turmoil for oil-exporting countries” .  On July 6,  France announced   it would end the sale of gas and diesel cars by 2040 ,  and on July 26 the U.K. released its Clean Air Plan, which included  a ban on the sale of new diesel and gas cars after 2040, with only electric vehicles available after that.

Response to the U.K. announcement is mixed.  In “Electric cars are not the solution to air pollution” Professor Frank Kelly, a professor of environmental health at King’s College London and chair of the government’s  Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants states that “The government’s plan does not go nearly far enough,” “Our cities need fewer cars, not just cleaner cars.”  In his role as a member of  the Centre for London’s commission on the future of the capital’s roads and streets  ,    Professor Kelly provides more detail about the problem of particle pollution and states:  “London should lead in showing electric cars will not tackle air pollution”  in The Guardian (August 4).  His conclusion: “The safe and efficient movement of people around the city can only be achieved through a clean and expanded mass transit system served by buses, overground trains and the underground system – and as much active transport in the form of walking and cycling as is feasibly possible.”

Others are raising issues about electric vehicles on other grounds, specifically the environmental costs  and labour conditions of producing the lithium ion batteries that power them.  These are not new concerns:  Carla Lipsig Mumme and Caleb Goods raised the flag in June 2015 with “The battery revolution is exciting, but remember they pollute too”   in The Conversation.   In January 2016, Amnesty International published a detailed documentation of the hazardous working conditions and the use of child labour in cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in  This is what we die for: Human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo power the global trade in cobalt  . (Cobalt is also used in mobile phones, laptop computers, and other portable electronic devices). The report  is available in English, French and Chinese from this link .

More recently,  “Politically charged: do you know where your batteries come from? ” appeared in The Conversation (July 26),   providing an overview of the geography , politics, and environmental impact of  lithium-ion battery raw materials. Briefly, the current major producers of lithium are Australia, Chile, Argentina and China, with Australia and Chile accounting for about 75% of the total. The main environmental concern, especially in Chile, is that the extraction can impact water supply in desert areas.  The article also looks at supply chain issues and states : “With almost half of the world’s cobalt ore reserves concentrated in Democratic Republic of Congo for the foreseeable future, and with a large proportion of refining capacity located in China, the supply chain could be more vulnerable.”  Not to mention the vulnerability of the miners Amnesty International has documented.

A  Canadian viewpoint on  the issue of supply:   “Clean Energy Spurs Lithium Rush, Demands Response to ‘Dirty Mining’” in the  Energy Mix (August 8). In the article, Financial Post columnist Peter Tertzakian states: “ it takes the equivalent of 15,000 cell phone batteries to make one battery for an electric car,” and “ramping up raw material inputs to build millions of car batteries a year fills the back of the envelope with scalability issues.” These supply issues may lead to a growth of “dirty mining” practices.  Will Canada be affected by the push for clean energy raw materials?  We do not currently produce lithium, although the article states that  engineers are trying to isolate it from tar sand/oil sand waste. We are a minor producer of other battery components,  graphite and cobalt, and the 3rd largest  producer of  nickel in the world.  According to Bloomberg News in August, the growth of electric vehicles will drive a doubling of demand for nickel by 2050. However, Bloomberg reports that  mining giant  BHP Bilton will invest in Australia to make it the world’s largest producer of nickel for electric vehicle batteries.

A final troubling issue with electric vehicles: disposal.  “The rise of electric cars could leave us with a big battery waste problem ”   according to The Guardian (August 10) , which cites the International Energy Agency estimates of  140m electric cars globally by 2030, resulting in a possible  11 million tonnes of spent lithium-ion batteries in need of recycling.  Two solutions are profiled in the article: recycling and reuse. The recycling profile features the CEO of  Canadian battery recycling start-up company, Li-Cycle, which is pioneering a  wet chemistry process which would  retrieve all of the important metals from batteries. The  proponents of the re-use solution include Aceleron and carmaker Nissan, which has patented a process for re-use. The article states that  car batteries can still have up to 70% of their capacity when they stop being good enough to power electric vehicles, so that they can be broken down, tested and re-packaged for functions such as home energy storage.

 

 

 

Provincial Policy updates: Quebec

Electric car London 2013Quebec’s Bill 104 was passed unanimously in the National Assembly on October 26, requiring that  3.5 % of the total number of vehicles sold or leased by car manufacturers in Quebec must be zero emissions vehicles (ZEV), starting in 2018. By 2020, the standard will  rise to 15.5 %. This is a first for Canada, although 10 states in the U.S. have ZEV regulations. See the government’s detailed  press release and background information, or a Summary of Measures of Bill 104.