After success in Paris, France, last fall at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, advocates in Canada were on Cloud Nine, and then the year-end vehicle statistics became available.
Canadians bought a record number of vehicles, almost 1.9 million units. Vehicles on the road increased by 1.1 million units partially because we bought so many, but also vehicles are so well built they last longer. Vehicle usage increased more than six per cent for the second consecutive year.
Sales of the most fuel-efficient vehicles declined and sales of the least efficient increased. Sales of battery electric vehicles rose slightly but sales of hybrid electric vehicles declined, so sales of electrified vehicles actually went down.
And vehicle ownership reached a record high of just under 85 percent of the driving-age population; in 2000, ownership was at 70 percent. More vehicles, more driving, uneven maintenance practices together with no consumer move to more fuel-efficient vehicles is all very bad when it comes to greenhouse- gas emissions.
On the positive side, manufacturers improved the average fuel efficiency of every all-new vehicle they offer. Most new-vehicle launches now include at least a hybrid version and some also come with a BEV option.
Yet the average sales-weighted fuel efficiency shows no improvement. Why? Every time a vehicle company introduces a more efficient vehicle, the consumer moves up to a bigger vehicle and/or a more powerful engine.
My grade school teacher would give the vehicle companies and their dealers a solid "A" on this issue and consumers and politicians a firm "F".
In a word, climate change policy is failing, period.
The reason is simple: it targets the wrong entity and promotes the wrong vehicles.
Our core policy is strict corporate average fuel efficiency (CAFE)standards. On a North American basis they are mandated to increase to 54.5 miles per U.S.gallon (4.3 l/100 km) by 2025 compared to the current average of 27/28 mpg (8.7-8.4 l/100 km) per vehicle today.
Most notably, it is the vehicle companies that must meet this mandate, although it is the consumer who chooses the fuel efficiency of the vehicle they wish to own, not the OEMs and not their dealers. Virtually every OEM sells gas misers and larger, less efficient vehicles.
Consumers choose which vehicle they buy, how many they own, how well they are maintained, how much they are driven and how long they keep them. Consumers need to be the main target, not the vehicle companies.
Rather than set CAFE standards and promote electric-vehicle sales, government needs to target the right entity. Getting owners of older vehicles to take them off the road through a scrappage program should be the primary policy.
The average fuel efficiency of a vehicle bought new today is about 50 per cent better than the average vehicle over 10 years old. Rather than singling out electric vehicles, we should be encouraging the purchase of just about any new vehicle. It would add employment in our auto factories and lower greenhouse-gas emissions.
Taxing fuel would move consumers towards more greenhousegas-benign vehicles. The OEMs can only offer more fuel-efficient vehicles; they cannot make consumers buy them.