The federal government’s accelerated 2035 goal of having all new vehicles sold produce zero emissions has no details about how the target can be achieved, auto industry stakeholders say. Such details are crucial to providing a road map for upgrading infrastructure, including the power grid — in a scant 14 years.
“The tipping point [of EV adoption] will not be one of price but will be one of convenience and utility,” said David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada (GAC), which represents the interests of manufacturers headquartered in Japan and Europe.
“If consumers come to the conclusion that EVs offer ... a better overall experience, they will be going to EVs in droves.
“For a lot of consumers, the jury is still out on one or more of those questions.”
On June 29, federal Environment Minister
Jonathan Wilkinson and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced that the Liberal government was moving up — to 2035 from 2040 — its target that 100 per cent of new vehicles sold in Canada produce zero emissions. In a joint statement, the ministers pledged to “pursue a combination of investments and regulations to help Canadians and industry transition to achieve the 100-per-cent zero-emission-vehicle sales by 2035.”
EVs made up about 3.5 per cent of vehicle registrations in the country last year, according to Statistics Canada.
A MANDATE? THEN HOW?
Adams said it was unclear whether Ottawa plans to introduce a ZEV mandate, which would essentially turn the 2035 goal into law.
“Is this a regulated commitment?” he said. “If so, how do we get there?”
The new timeline signals Ottawa’s intention to introduce a legislated ZEV mandate, said Daniel Breton, president of Electric Mobility Canada, a nonprofit organization that backs EV adoption.
“The devil is in the details,” Breton said, but federal officials plan consultations in the fall, and a mandate will be on the agenda.
A federal government spokeswoman said the details of implementation, “whether through legislation or administrative action, will be subject to consultations over the coming months.”
It is not known how such a mandate would overlap with provincial mandates already in place in Quebec, which has targeted 2035, and British Columbia, which has targeted 2040.
The lack of sufficient high-speed charging infrastructure must be addressed to ease concerns such as range anxiety, said Brian Kingston, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association.
“Consumers are going to demand convenience,” Kingston said. Public charging — particularly for those who lack driveways or garages to install chargers — is critical, he said.
The International Energy Association has estimated that a country needs at least one public charging station for every 10 electric vehicles.
The next 14 years will go by quickly, Kingston said, and the timelines for some of the needed infrastructure are measured in decades, not years. That infrastructure isn’t just charging stations but having the electrical generation capacity to operate them.
A U.S. study found that to achieve a 90-per-cent EV fleet, utilities would have to increase generating capacity 41 per cent, Kingston said. Building a generating station, particularly the relatively cleaner hydroelectric station, takes years just to get approval.
For example, Manitoba’s Keeyask Generating Station was conceived in the 2000s, broke ground in 2014 and isn’t expected to go online until later this year.
As automakers place added emphasis on the ethical sourcing of the base materials, Adams said, Canada has an opportunity to be at the forefront of the EV industry.
“I think we’re probably well-positioned to do that, to a certain extent,” he said. “I’m hopeful we’ll get to the stage where there’s processing capacity, an actual battery factory that is utilizing elements that have been processed from Canadian feedstocks.”
BUILD BATTERY JOBS
Unifor National President Jerry Dias, whose union represents hourly workers of the Detroit Three in Canada, said that with the country’s supply of the base minerals for EV batteries — nickel, zinc, cobalt, lithium and manganese — the potential for job creation to support a shift to zero emissions is huge.
However, Dias is concerned that the government is going to fall back on Canada’s reputation as “hewers of wood and drawers of water” and let other countries reap the rewards of value-added processing of those minerals.
“Is the government ready to grow a spine on trade, or are we also going to ship these natural resources offshore and then buy them back as batteries?” he said.
A spokeswoman for Natural Resources Canada said the country is one of two in the Global Batteries Alliance working to eliminate child and slave labour in the cobalt supply chain. In its 2021 budget, the alliance set aside $9.6 million over three years to create a Critical Minerals Centre of Excellence, with an overall goal of stimulating the development of critical-mineral supply chains in Canada.
The spokeswoman said the government’s strategy, titled Mines to Mobility, is designed to make Canada a global leader in the ethical production of batteries and other clean technologies.
“Budget 2021 also provides $47.7 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, for federal research and development to advance critical battery mineral processing and refining expertise,” she said.
Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA), said “there’s a long shadow between intent and execution,” but the government’s accelerated ZEV timeline was expected. “Nothing about the government’s announcement was a surprise,” Volpe said. “Nor is it a surprise the plan has yet to be written.
“We look forward to writing it together.”