In a bold move, Germany is considering to only allow the sale of zero-emissions vehicles by 2030. That's 13 short years away.
It's bold because something that grand for Canada could likely never be achieved, let alone discussed. The current crop of small electric cars lacks the range and utility to work for any Canadian living outside of, or traveling between, major metropolitan areas. A standard trip in Manitoba, for example, is to go from Brandon to Winnipeg, which is about 200 kilometres.
And then there's winter. Six months of it in many places. Frigid weather absolutely slaughters battery performance. In January, with the seat and interior heaters on full blast and all electrical systems running harder and longer, I've drained a Chevrolet Volt battery in just 15 kilometres. That was also while pushing a few inches of snow. In the winter there is no such thing as low rolling resistance.
So, where does Ontario get off wanting five per cent of all new-vehicle passenger-car sales to be electrics? (See story on page 16.) That would be about 14,000 vehicles per year when there are only 7,000 on the road now, in total.
To make EV ownership more appealing - or less aggravating, rather - the Ontario government will spend $20 million to install nearly 500 charging stations in high-traffic corridors. All good then?
Not quite. Five per cent is ambitious not just because there's a current lack of public charging stations, but also because only about two percent of all the vehicles for sale in Canada are of the plug-in variety. And that's being generous. It's not just a range-anxiety issue, but a product issue. There isn't enough EV variety and options and certainly not at a price that's even remotely competitive with equivalently sized fossil-fuel vehicles.
Canadians buy trucks. They buy CR-Vs and CX-5s. They need to haul lumber, go on summer vacation in the Rockies while towing a camper. They need to travel to hockey tournaments all over rural Saskatchewan. And there isn't an electric vehicle on the market that can do the job. With usefulness as the only parameter, what electric vehicle should they choose? A BMW i3? A Leaf? Of course not, but there's hope. With more charging stations, automakers will have no choice but to eventually build electric vehicles that Canadians can use. Is 2030 that unrealistic?