Lessons for Canada’s EV policy in new IEA EV Global Outlook report

On June 15 , the International Energy Agency released  Global EV Outlook 2020 , a global ev 2020comprehensive annual report which provides historical analysis and projections to 2030, along with policy recommendations. It states that global electric car sales in 2019 were 2.1 million –  a 6% growth from 2018, but at a slower rate than previous years – partly explained by the Covid-19 pandemic. The report discusses electric vehicle and charging infrastructure deployment, ownership cost, energy use, carbon dioxide emissions and battery material demand, as well as the performance and costs of batteries. Further, it updates its life-cycle analysis re end-of-life treatment for batteries. It also includes case studies on transit bus electrification in Kolkata (India), Shenzhen (China), Santiago (Chile) and Helsinki (Finland).  The press release summary is here .

Ben Sharpe and Jesse Pelchat argued that “Canada is falling behind on transition to electric vehicles” in Policy Options (May 1), summarizing the findings of a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation,  Canada’s role in the electric vehicle transition (March 31). They state that “One of the most impactful things governments in Canada can do to stimulate manufacturing of zero-emission cars and trucks is to ramp up the effort to deploy policies aimed at growing the domestic market for these vehicles” – an argument expanded  by Clean Energy Canada  in Catching the Bus : How Smart Policy Can Accelerate Electric Buses Across Canada   (June 11).

Returning to work after Covid-19 – by transit or by cycling?

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) in Canada reported on May 12 that a Probe Research poll found that 78% of Canadian respondents support $5 billion in emergency government funding for public transit services, and 91% agree that governments have a responsibility to ensure access to safe, reliable, and affordable public transit.  Yet when asked whether they would use public transport after Covid-19, city-dwellers in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the U.K. and the Brussels metropolitan area, expressed “lukewarm enthusiasm for public transport, due to a fear of the risk of infection”. The European survey also was conducted in mid-May,  by YouGov poll, and according to an article in Politico Europe,  preference was for “active transportation” such as walking and cycling, with a majority supporting new zero-emissions zones, banning cars from urban areas,  and maintaining the gains in  road space dedicated to bikes and pedestrians that were implemented during the Covid-19 crisis.

In Canada, the cycling issue is explored in “Bike lanes installed on urgent basis across Canada during COVID-19 pandemic”  by CBC (June 7), highlighting a movement to establish permanent, protected cycling lanes – which is one of the demands of the 2020 Declaration for Resilience in Canadian Cities, a statement championed by Jennifer Keesmaat, former City of Toronto Chief Planner. (a list of over 100 signatories is here ). Other proposals from the Declaration include a moratorium on the construction and reconstruction of urban expressways; congestion pricing policies, with 100% of the revenues dedicated to public transportation expansion, and electrification of the public transit fleet.

Catching the Bus : How Smart Policy Can Accelerate Electric Buses Across Canada   is a policy report released by Clean Energy Canada on June 11,  but unfortunately researched before the transformational impacts of Covid-19.  In an updated introduction, Clean Energy Canada argues that emergency financial relief for transit agencies should be the government’s top priority, but points out that transit procurement cycles run approximately 12 to 18 years, so that “investment decisions today will last for decades.” According to a blog by the Amalgamated Transit Union , the pandemic has resulted in a 75-85% decrease in ridership, with over 3,000 layoffs announced by mid-May and more expected.  The ATU has called on the federal government to provide a $5 billion stimulus investment just to stave off the bankruptcy of transit agencies  – the ATU position on electrification is stated in a February blog here .

Clearing the Air: How electric vehicles and cleaner trucks can reduce pollution, improve health and save lives in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area was released on June 3, a joint project by Environmental Defence ,  the Ontario Public Health Association,  and the University of Toronto’s Transportation and Air Quality Research Group. The report considers the impact of electrification of passenger cars, urban buses, and freight trucks, with the main purpose of demonstrating the considerable health effects of lower pollution.  Policy prescriptions for buses are scanty, though the report estimates that  electrifying all public transit buses in Canada would provide social benefits of up to $1.1 billion per year.  The report and a series of interactive maps of the region are here .

Of these recent reports, only the 2020 Declaration for Resilience in Canadian Cities addresses the issue of transit equity, so evident in the pandemic world as low-wage and essential workers may not have the luxury of replacing their transit commute with a passenger car. Work and Climate Change Report summarized Canadian initiatives pre-Covid in “Transit Equity and Free Transit: addressing social justice, climate justice and workplace justice (Feb.10) . Also pre-Covid in November 2019, an interview with University of Toronto professor Steven Farber discusses how transit policy is a social justice issue.  Farber also spoke at the ATU  Transit Equity Summit in December 2019  .

342,000 jobs by 2040 in zero electric vehicle production in Canada

electric school busA report published by the International Council on Clean Transportation in March,  “Simulating zero emission vehicle adoption and economic impacts in Canada”, was researched by Navius Research of Vancouver. Using economic modelling, Navius forecasts that, even with current policies in place, the ZEV economy in Canada will grow to $43 billion of GDP and 342,000 workers by 2040. With stronger policies, that job creation potential could approach 1.1 million people by 2040.

The employment forecast accompanies a White Paper by the International Council on Clean Transportation which analyzes sales and production trends for conventional and electric vehicles in Canada. It  finds that Canada is the 12th largest vehicle producer in the world, but it’s production of electric vehicles is 80% lower than the global average, at only 0.4% of the total.  The report, Canada’s role in the electric vehicle transition  states that the most important action Canada can take to encourage production is grow its domestic electric vehicle sales market. It also recommends: ….. “Supply-side policies such as research and development funding, loan guarantees, and tax breaks for manufacturing plants are warranted” and “domestic manufacturing requirements for the procurement of public transit vehicles can serve to increase production of electric buses in Canada.” In addition, “Canada can build on its early leadership in developing and producing hydrogen fuel cell technology—especially for heavy-duty vehicles. … hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are likely to play a critical role in Canada’s on-road freight sector…”

In February 2020, the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC) announced  the creation of North America’s first-ever cluster of post-secondary institutions dedicated specifically to researching battery electric and fuel cell electric buses.  Canadian manufacturers already producing electric buses include New Flyer Industries, Nova Bus, GreenPower Motor Company, and The Lion Electric Company, as well as U.S. -owned Proterra.

Environmental benefits of electric vehicles and heat pumps

A technical  study led by researchers from the Exeter University, University of Nijmegen, and Cambridge University used life cycle analysis to show that in 53 out of the 59 regions studied, electric-powered  vehicles and heat pumps generated less carbon dioxide than cars and boilers powered by fossil fuels. The only exceptions came in the heavily coal-dependent regions of Poland.  “Net emission reductions from electric cars and heat pumps in 59 world regions over time”  appeared in Nature Sustainability in late March,  and is summarized in The Guardian as “Electric cars produce less CO2 than petrol vehicles, study confirms” (Mar. 23). The Guardian article emphasizes that this study is proof against a campaign of disinformation which has slowed the acceptance of these two technologies – and which they address in an accompanying primer, “How Green are Electric Cars?” 

Green Jobs Oshawa still fighting for GM plant conversion; EV investment goes to Detroit-Hamtramck plant

green jobs oshawa logoAn article by former CAW Research Director Sam Gindin appeared in The Socialist Project newsletter The Bullet on Feb. 3.  “Realizing ‘Just Transitions’: The Struggle for Plant Conversion at GM Oshawa” describes the ongoing work of Green Jobs Oshawa to fight back against the closure of the GM Oshawa plant with a proposal to convert the plant to  electric vehicle manufacture. Green Jobs Oshawa commissioned an economic study in 2019, The Triple Bottom Line Feasibility Study  which estimated that the plant conversion could create 13,000 jobs with modest government investment and a worker ownership model. Gindin’s new article seeks to explain why the Green Jobs Oshawa campaign hasn’t succeeded yet, and suggests new thinking and new roles for workers, Unifor at the local and national level, the Candian Labour Congress, and the government. (A related, good-news article, “The man of wind, water and sun” in Corporate Knights  (Jan. 16) profiles Toronto lawyer Brian Iler and describes his efforts, along with the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation  to retool GM Oshawa. Iler is described as “the creative legal mind behind a host of cutting-edge renewable energy projects, social ventures and co-ops that have challenged received wisdom.” )

General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck AssemblyIn the meantime, on January 27, General Motors announced “Detroit-Hamtramck to be GM’s First Assembly Plant 100 Percent Devoted to Electric Vehicles” , promising creation of 2,200 jobs.  Production of an all-electric pick-up truck will start as soon as late 2021, to be followed by an all-electric Cruise Origin self-driving shuttle, and an electric Hummer.  Like Oshawa GM, the Detroit Hamtramck plant had been slated for closure, but the corporate press release states that GM will invest $2.2 billion in the U.S. plant and an additional $800 million in supplier tooling and other projects. Encouraged by favourable tax treatment by the state, GM has committed more than $2.5 billion toward electric vehicle manufacturing in Michigan since Fall 2018 –  recent news of GM’s corporate push to electric vehicles appears in The Detroit Free Press in  “GM bids to buy land for a new battery factory in Lordstown” (Jan. 15) ; “GM commits to $2.2 billion investment and 2,200 jobs at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly ” (Jan. 27) and in the New York Times, “G.M. Making Detroit Plant a Hub of Electric and A.V. Efforts” (Jan. 27).

Canadians are trying to find a silver lining, as reported by the Windsor Star newspaper in  “GM’s first all-electric vehicle plant in Detroit will have Canadian spillover benefits” . The article quotes the president of Canada’s Automobile Parts Manufacturing Association: “if GM meets the volume expectations of the vehicles in the Hamtramck re-launch, Southwestern Ontario suppliers may pull in up to 30 per cent of the content opportunities that will arise.”

B.C. Building Step Code credited with the province’s top rank in Canada for energy efficiency

energy efficiency scorecardWith a view to encouraging cooperation amongst provinces, Efficiency Canada launched  Canada’s  first-ever Provincial Energy Efficiency Scorecard  on November 19,  accompanied by an interactive database  which is promised to be updated regularly.   The full Scorecard report is a free download from this link   (registration required). Provinces were scored out of 100 for their energy efficiency programs, enabling policies, building, transportation, and industry, between January 2018 and June 2019.   British Columbia ranks #1 (56 points), followed by  Quebec (48), Ontario (47)  and Nova Scotia (45). Saskatchewan was last with only 18 out of 100 possible points. But beyond the gross numbers and overview comparisons,  the report, at 190 pages,  provides a wealth of detail  and policy information provided about  best practices and achievements in each jurisdiction – especially about electrification, electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, and building policies and codes.

Two of the study co-authors, Brendan Haley and James Gaede, have written  “Canadians can unite behind energy efficiency” published in Policy Options , providing context and highlights.