Electric vehicle lobby group launches in Canada as GM announces more EV truck production is coming to CAMI in Ontario

As reported in iPolitics on September 29, a new industry lobby group has launched in Canada:  Accelerate,  which describes itself as “ a 5-year national initiative bringing together key players across Canada, from mining to mobility, from R&D to commercialization, and from vehicle assembly to infrastructure. Accelerate will establish a forum for members to collaborate, strategize and advocate for priorities that will support the accelerated development of a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) supply chain in Canada.” One of the specific action areas is  “ to align current talent development with the future needs of the emerging ZEV supply chain. …. Accelerate will create a forum for collaboration and coordination between colleges, universities and industry. This will help universities/colleges develop their curricula in line with the needs of the industry, which benefits both prospective workers and employers.”   Member organizations of Accelerate include advocacy groups, manufacturers, as well as the union Unifor.  

More Electric Freight Vehicles coming to Canada

The North American Council for Freight Efficiency issued a press release in September which states that if all U.S. and Canadian medium- and heavy-duty trucks became electric, about 100 million metric tons of CO2 would be saved, without disrupting the flow of cargo. They make their claim based on data from the Run on Less-Electric test run concluded in September, in which 13 electric trucks were monitored for three weeks while they followed their regular routes delivering beer, wine, packages, electrical equipment, etc. From the press release: “It’s clear from the data collected during the Run that it is time for fleets to go electric in certain market segments, including the van/step van, medium-duty box truck, terminal tractor and short heavy tractor regional delivery segments.” More on how the test run was developed and how drivers were trained here . The test run results are discussed by Canary Media here (Sept. 23).

In Canada, GM BrightDrop, the electric vehicle arm of GM, is building the EV600 at the CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, beginning in November 2022. On September 28, BrightDrop announced that it will also produce a medium-sized delivery van, the EV410, with production at CAMI Ingersoll beginning in 2023. Unifor, which represents 1800 workers in Local 88, welcomed the news with this press release. In announcing the new model,  the CEO of BrightDrop drew a straight line between climate change and electric vehicles: “As e-commerce demand continues to increase and the effects of climate change are felt like never before across the globe, it’s imperative that we move quickly to reduce emissions. BrightDrop’s holistic delivery solutions are designed to help tackle these challenges head on.”

The EV600 has been sold to FedEx in the U.S., while the press release states that the new and smaller EV410 is  aimed at door deliveries for the food industry, or telecommunications repairs. Its first announced customer is Verizon U.S.    

Impact on labour of the electrification of vehicles: new reports from Canada and Europe

In late August, the Pembina Institute released Taking Charge: How Ontario can create jobs and benefits in the electric vehicle economy,  discussing the economic and job creation potential for Canada’s main vehicle manufacturing province. The report considers manufacturing, maintenance, and the development and installation of charging infrastructure.  Its modeling estimates that, “if Ontario were to grow its EV market to account for 100% of total light-duty automobile sales as of 2035, direct, indirect and induced economic benefits associated with EV manufacturing would include over 24,200 jobs, and over $3.4 billion in GDP in 2035. In this scenario, Ontario’s EV charger and maintenance sectors can additionally benefit from nearly 23,200 jobs, and over $2.7 billion in GDP in 2035.”

The report concludes with seven policy recommendations which centre on stimulating consumer demand and encouraging private capital to invest in electric vehicles and infrastructure, and which include the establishment of an Ontario Transportation Electrification Council. Such a council is seen as a coordinating body for “the departments responsible for transportation, economic development, energy, natural resources, and environment as well as labour, training, and skills development.”

Taking Charge includes a short discussion of the impacts on labour, relying largely on the analysis by the Boston Consulting Group, published in September 2020 as Shifting Gears in Auto Manufacturing.  That report states that the labour requirements to assemble Battery Electric Vehicles and Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles are comparable — with the example of such tasks as fuel-tank installation and engine wiring shifting to battery alignment and charging-unit installation during vehicle assembly.  However, the report sees a likely shift from assembly work to parts suppliers, in the likely event that automakers choose not to manufacture batteries in-house. In that scenario, The Boston Consulting Group analysis forecasts that labour hours would be reduced by 4%.  The Pembina discussion concludes with: 

“To maximize the potential for the shift to electrification to contribute to a just transition for autoworkers, policymakers should keep in mind changes in labour and skills requirements within the value chain, as well as the importance of keeping as much of the EV supply chain within the province as possible.”

In Europe:  The new Fit for 55 legislative proposals introduced on July 14, if approved,  will mandate that vehicles’ average emissions are reduced by 55 percent in 2030 and 100 percent in 2035. Several publications have followed, including: a Clean Energy Wire Fact Sheet,  “How many jobs are at risk from the shift to electric vehicles?”, which concludes that there is greater risk of job loss amongst the supply chain manufacturers than at the big assemblers such as VW Group (Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Skoda and Seat brands), Stellantis (Fiat, Peugeot, Citroen, Opel/Vauxhall), the Renault Group, BMW and Daimler (Mercedes).  

Trade magazine Automotive Logistics published “Electrifying Europe: EU ‘Fit for 55’ legislation will transform the automotive supply chain” on August  23(restricted access), emphasizing that the new policy would “completely transform” the industry.

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) published  Making the transition to zero-emission mobility: Enabling factors for alternatively-powered cars and vans in the European Union , a thorough analysis of the entire supply chain.   And following  an “auto summit” in August, involving industry, unions, and senior German government officials including Chancellor Angela Merkel, the details of a  “future fund” of one billion euros by 2025 were revealed, as summarized in “Billions in taxes for e-mobility” (Aug. 18). Despite this support for the manufacturers, concerns remain regarding the capacity of charging infrastructure – summarized in “The loading chaos remains even after the car summit: More electric cars, too few charging stations” (Aug. 20).

Job growth in clean energy will more than offset fossil fuel losses

Clean Energy Canada released a new report on June 17,  projecting that Canada’s clean energy sector will grow by almost 50% (over 200,000 jobs) by 2030, to reach 639,200 jobs. The report states that this will far exceed the 125,800 jobs expected to be lost in fossil fuels.  Surprisingly, the province with the greatest increase in clean energy jobs will be Alberta – forecast  to increase by 164% by 2030.  As the introduction concludes: “Oil and gas may have dominated Canada’s energy past, but it’s Canada’s clean energy sector that will define its new reality.”

The New Reality report is the latest in the “Tracking the Energy Transition” series, updating the 2019 report.  It is based on modelling by Navius Research – presented in a technical report here. Employment and GDP numbers are considered under two policy scenarios: the Pan-Canadian Framework for Clean Growth and Climate Change (the Liberal government’s previous policy) , and the Healthy Environment, Healthy Economy policy, unveiled in December 2020.  The definition of “clean energy jobs” is broad, and forecasting breaks down into industry sectors – for example, stating that  jobs in electric vehicle technology are on track to grow 39% per year, with 184,000 people set to be employed in the industry in 2030—a 26-fold increase over 2020. The report also highlights specific examples of the pioneering clean energy companies in Canada.

Benchmarking corporate Just Transition policies gives auto manufacturers like Tesla a low score

The World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) announced in February that will combine its existing Corporate Human Rights Benchmarking  with its Climate and Energy Benchmarking of global corporations, to produce a Just Transition Benchmark Assessment .  The WBA has a practical objective:

“Trade unions and civil society organisations can use the transparency provided by these assessments to hold companies accountable, and governments can use them as evidence to inform policy making for a just transition. Additionally, investors and the companies themselves will be able to use the assessments as a roadmap to move towards practices to ensure no one is left behind in the decarbonisation and energy transformation.”

Assessing a just transition: measuring the decarbonisation and energy transformation that leaves no one behind  outlines the methodology of this new assessment exercise and invites stakeholders to contribute in an ongoing process till 2023. The proposed outcome is to publish Just Transition Benchmark assessments of approximately 450 companies in high-emitting sectors – in publicly available rankings,  as are the many other reports of the World Benchmarking Alliance. Assessing a just transition also includes results from a pilot project of the automotive sector to illustrate how the Just Transition assessments will be done. It synthesizes the findings from the WBA Automotive Benchmarking for 2020  with its Corporate Human Rights Benchmarking .

Global auto manufacturers are racing to produce electric vehicles, but are they respecting workers’ rights?

In combining the findings of the two existing benchmarking initiatives, Assessing a just transition states: “…. Some companies that demonstrated action on climate issues, such as low-carbon transition plans, emissions reduction targets and climate change oversight, disclosed very little, if any, information on how they manage human rights, and vice versa. This lack of correlation suggests that many automotive manufacturers still consider climate and human rights issues separately, to be addressed independently of each other, despite the fact that they are increasingly recognised as interconnected.”

A brief case study highlight of Tesla states:  “….. when observing the company’s approach to managing human rights, Tesla scores in the bottom third of companies assessed in the CHRB with an overall score of 6.3/100. This approach has come under recent scrutiny, with a 2020 shareholder resolution demanding Tesla improve its disclosures on human rights governance, due diligence and remedy. While the resolution did not pass (24.8% voted in favour), it highlights that even when a company contributes to decarbonisation, a lack of essential human rights policies and processes to prevent abuse of communities and workers cannot be overlooked.”

Related reports:

The WBA  Corporate Human Rights Benchmarking Report for 2020 Key Findings  includes five sectors: Agricultural products, Apparel, Extractives & ICT manufacturing – and for the first time ever, 30 companies in the Automotive manufacturing sector.   The report states: “The average score for automotive companies is 12%, the lowest score ever for a CHRB-benchmarked sector. Two thirds of the companies scored 0 across all human rights due diligence indicators. These poor results suggest implementation of the UNGPs is weak across the sector.”

Twenty-five “keystone” companies in the automotive industry have been benchmarked for their progress towards Paris goals since 2019. Results of the 2020 report are here , and a blog in December 2020 summarizes the results in  “A tale of two automotive companies: sluggish incumbents and opaque disruptors in the race to zero-emissions vehicles”.