Electrification of vehicles in Canadian mines

Trade magazine Electric Autonomy has published a series titled BEV’s in Mining, and while clearly from an industry point of view, the articles provide a useful overview of the transformation being wrought by electrification of the mining industry in Canada.  “Deep secrets: How Canada’s mining sector grabbed the global lead in mining electrification “  (Nov. 2020) introduces the topic of Battery Electric Vehicles and highlights the specific activities of mining majors GlencoreVale and Newmont, as well as Maclean Engineering, a Collingwood, Ontario-based equipment manufacturer.  A related, brief article highlighted the use of Rokion-manufactured trucks at Vale Canada mining sites in Manitoba and Ontario.  “Human capital: How BEVs in underground mining change the working environment for the better” was published in February 2021 – discussing the benefits for operators from less noise and vibration, cleaner air, and less fire risk underground. This healthier environment is linked to greater worker satisfaction and a competitive edge for employers to attract scarce talent.  The article also states that “the ventilation system for an all-electric mine will operate at roughly 50 per cent of the cost of a diesel mine and cut greenhouse emissions per mine by 70 per cent, according to government data. The Canadian government estimates transitioning to electric could save 500 tonnes of CO2 emissions per vehicle, every year.”  

Most recently,  “There’s a skills shortage maintaining electric mining vehicles. One training program is trying to fix that” ( Aug. 25), which describes the new “ Industrial Battery Electric Vehicle Maintenance Course”, associated with Cambrian College’s research-oriented Centre for Smart Mining in Sudbury, and with Maclean Engineering. What the series does not discuss are the other labour market implications – including layoffs – from the automation of vehicles and other operations.

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).

Canada’s Strategy for Greening Government needs improvement, and Canada Post sets unambitious targets

Although the federal government is directly responsible for only  0.3% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions (mostly through its buildings and fleet operations), it also has the potential to act as a model for emissions reductions by other governments and corporations. Yet surprisingly, federal government emissions have risen by 11% since 2015 (after falling between 2005 and 2015), according to Leading the Way? A critical assessment of the federal Greening Government Strategy, released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in early August.

The report describes and critiques how the Green Government Strategy works. It identifies three main problem areas: 1. The Strategy doesn’t include the biggest public emitters, such as the Department of National Defence, nor federal Crown corporations like Canada Post, Via Rail and Canada Development Investment Corporation; 2. there is a lack of urgency and specificity in the Strategy itself; and 3. there is  inadequate support for the public service to administer the Strategy, and to manage its own workplace operations.  The report states: “Public service unions have a role to play in pushing for these sorts of changes to reduce workplace emissions, including through the appointment of workplace green stewards and the inclusion of green clauses in collective bargaining.”

Canada Post, one of the Crown Corporations mentioned in the Leading the Way report, released its Net Zero 2050 Roadmap on August 6, setting goals to:

  • “reduce scope 1 (direct) and scope 2 GHG emissions (from the generation of purchased electricity) by 30 per cent by 2030, measured against 2019 levels;
  • use 100 per cent renewable electricity in its facilities by 2030; and
  • engage with top suppliers and Canada Post’s subsidiaries so that 67% of suppliers (by spend) and all subsidiaries adopt a science-based target by 2025.”

In reaction to the Net Zero Roadmap, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers issued a press release, “Canada Post’s Unambitious Emissions Targets Disappoint CUPW” , which highlights that the newly-released Roadmap calls only for 220 electric vehicles in a fleet of over 14,000. CUPW offers more details about its goals for electrifying the fleet in its Brief to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development on Bill C-12 in May, and sets out its broader climate change proposals in its updated Delivering Community Power plan.

Regarding the Canada Post delivery fleet: The Canada Post Sustainability Report of 2020 reports statistics which reveal that Canada Post has favoured hybrid vehicles, with  more than 353 new hybrid electric vehicles added in 2020, bringing  the total number of “alternative propulsion vehicles” in the fleet to 854, or 6.5%.   Canada Post pledges to use other means to reduce delivery emissions, for example by using telematics to optimize routing, to use electric trikes for last-mile delivery (see a CBC story re the Montreal pilot here), and by piloting electric vehicle charging stations for employees at mail processing plants in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver, and at the Ottawa head office.  Canada Post is also a member of the Pembina Institute’s Urban Delivery Solutions Initiative (USDI), a network which also includes environmental agencies and courier companies, to research emissions reduction in freight delivery.

Feds announce mandatory zero emissions vehicle sales by 2035

On June 29, the federal government announced that it will set a mandatory target: all new light-duty cars and passenger trucks sales in Canada must be zero-emission by 2035.  The federal press release continues: “the government will pursue a combination of investments and regulations to help Canadians and industry transition …It will work also with partners to develop interim 2025 and 2030 targets, and additional mandatory measures that may be needed beyond Canada’s light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas emissions regulations.”  As explained in Clean Energy Canada’s 2020 Brief, “What is a Zero Emission Vehicle Standard and why does Canada need one?” this is a necessary step to address Canada’s problem with electric vehicle supply (also recently discussed in a report by Environmental Defence) . Environmental Defence reacted to the new standard with lukewarm enthusiasm saying, “ A target is one thing, but it’s an empty promise if it’s not backed up by policy to ensure it’s met.”

An article in Corporate Knights magazine asserts that “While ramping up sales of electric passenger vehicles is important and inevitable, last-mile freight delivery offers the lowest-hanging fruit for rapid reduction of carbon emissions”.  “Prime Time to electrify last-mile deliveries” , published in Corporate Knights in June cites the need for government investment, re-tooling of manufacturing, and conversion to electric fleets by corporations. The article describes progress so far, with details on manufacturing and sales by Lion Electric and Ford, and the electric vehicle fleet purchases by Purolator, Amazon, and FedEx.

The Pembina Institute has published a number of reports on the issue of decarbonizing urban freight, with electric vehicles as a major part of that puzzle. On June 22, Pembina organized a webinar (recorded here) which  launched a “toolkit” directed to local government planners.  Building healthy cities in the doorstep-delivery era: Sustainable urban freight solutions from around the world  was jointly published by Pembina Institute, Bloomberg Associates, and the  National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) in the U.S., and considers electric vehicle fleets amongst other options to reduce urban pollution and improve gridlock.

According to Clean Energy Canada in its June 2021 report, The New Reality,  jobs in electric vehicle technology were on track to grow 39% per year, with 184,000 people set to be employed in the industry in 2030, even before the new mandatory sales policy was announced.   

Growth of ZEV’s impacts trucks, buses – and their drivers too

The International Energy Agency released its annual Global Electric Vehicle Outlook report for 2021 in April, providing data, historical trends and future projections. Despite the pandemic, there was a 41% increase in electric vehicle registrations in 2020 – compared to a 16% contraction of the overall global automobile market. There are now more than 10 million electric cars on the world’s roads, and for the first time, Europe overtook China as the centre of the global electric car market.  In addition, there are roughly 1 million electric vans, heavy trucks and buses globally.  A separate forecast by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, as summarized by The Guardian, projects that electric vehicles will reach price parity with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2027.  Another April report from Boston Consulting Group  forecasts that zero-emission vehicles will replace ICE vehicles as the dominant powertrain for new light-vehicle sales globally just after 2035.

Most policy discussions of the electrification of transportation focus on the potential for GHG emissions reductions, consumer preferences, and the economic impacts for the automotive industry. There has been a lack of attention on operational workers – with a few exceptions. A 2020 report from the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Jobs in green and healthy transport: Making the green shift , offers modelling of employment impacts in a broad definition of transportation, including personal vehicles, trucks and public transport. It focuses on Europe, and discusses the employment impacts in both manufacturing and operation.

A second notable report: The Impacts of Zero Emission Buses on the Transportation Workforce – is a Policy Statement regarding public transit, was released on April 21 by the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and the Transport Workers Union in the U.S.. Their statement  warns that major job losses could occur and workers could be left without adequate training, and calls for the federal government in the U.S. to mandate worker protections, including:  the Federal Transit Administration should require “advance notification of procurements and workforce impact assessments including potential job displacements or significant changes in responsibilities due to the introduction of new technologies to employee representatives”; a right of first refusal for existing employees to newly created jobs; and requirements for employers and employees to bargain in good faith over the terms of implementing the project. The Statement also call for a national workforce training center to be established to train current employees on the new systems, and a guarantee that workers will be represented on task forces and committees around climate change and technology.

These are policies which might be relevant to the response of the Amalgamated Transit Union in Toronto, where the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), announced  a “green fleet expansion”, in  partnership with Toronto Hydro and Ontario Power Generation. Their April 9 press release states: “The TTC is currently operating 60 battery-electric buses, the largest zero-emissions fleet in North America, made by three different manufacturers: BYD Canada Co. Ltd., New Flyer Industries Inc. and Proterra Inc. All three have been part of TTC’s innovative ongoing head-to-head evaluation …. The Board is expected to discuss the results of the evaluation and subsequently greenlight the procurement of approximately 300 long-range battery-electric buses that will be delivered between Q1 2023 and Q1 2025.”   

Other EV News from Canada  

British Columbia’s new report, Zero-Emission Vehicle Update 2020 , states that B.C. has the highest electric vehicle uptake in North America – with 54,469 light-duty ZEVs registered and over 2,500 public charging stations in the province at the end of 2020.  On May 14, the province announced increased weight allowances for trucks, “to offset the loss of payload capacity that commercial operators experience with greener vehicles. Low-carbon options weigh more than standard diesel trucks due to the size of their battery packs and hydrogen tanks.” In Vancouver, a draft Climate 2050 Transportation Roadmap was presented to City Council on April 21 – the second in a series of ten Roadmaps that will guide the region’s climate actions to 2050. The Roadmap describes and recommends strategies to increase EV uptake –including an outreach program to large employers to encourage the installation of EV charging stations at workplaces, and facilitate fleet replacement.  

In Ontario, two new reports from the Pembina Institute discuss fleet replacement: Making the Case for Electric Urban Delivery Fleets in the GTHA and Making the Switch to Electric Urban Delivery Fleets in the GTHA. Both are directed at fleet managers, but act as useful overviews of the complex issues in such a conversion.  Making the Switch acknowledges (though only briefly) the need for training for both drivers and maintenance workers. Information about the impact of driver attitudes and habits appears in Long-haul trucking fleets take emission reductions into their own hands – an April report with case studies of three companies with heavy-duty trucks. These reports are the latest in a series of reports from Pembina, reflecting their sustained interest in the transportation sector.