The Sept. 20 federal election put Justin Trudeau’s Liberals on a path that’s all but guaranteed to drive the adoption of electric vehicles in Canada.
The party pledged during the campaign to hasten the transition to zero-emission vehicles, setting a course for half of new light-duty sales, per year, to be ZEVs by 2030.
The timeline will doubtless challenge the auto industry and electricity providers, with experts saying the increase in ZEV adoption will put pressure on the network, particularly at peak times. Grid operators and distributors in Canada’s three most populous provinces are confident, however, that the power lines can keep up.
Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), which runs Ontario’s power grid, has been factoring EVs into its longterm energy plans for more than a decade. IESO has relied mainly on government adoption targets, with a dose of “skepticism” worked in, said Chuck Farmer, IESO vice-president of planning, conservation and resource adequacy.
“There was definitely [uptake] in the sector, and we were seeing it, but not really to the level maybe the targets had-it in place,” Farmer said.
With momentum building, however, he said IESO is seeing charging networks expand, auto supply chains get serious about EVs and the pace of adoption pick up.
“We think that’s setting up the conditions for this to start to have a significant impact” on the electricity grid, Farmer said.
Still, IESO’s latest demand forecast, released in December 2020, shows it is preparing for relatively modest growth in EVs. In its most aggressive demand scenario, the agency forecasts the number of EVs in Ontario to reach 700,000 by 2030 and 1.2 million by 2040. Its 2030 estimate for EVs is 8.2 per cent of the roughly 8.5 million new and used light-duty vehicles that Statistics Canada said were registered in Ontario in 2020.
And the federal government’s new 50-per-cent ZEV sales target for 2030 is only the halfway point. This June, Ottawa moved up its 100 per cent ZEV adoption goal by five years, now aiming to have ZEVs account for 100 per cent of annual light-duty sales by 2035.
But even if gasoline and diesel sales end by the middle of the decade, it will take considerably longer for EVs to replace all vehicles on the road.