A national strategy for zero-emission vehicles will not impose specific technologies on the auto industry, Canada’s economic development minister says.
The federal government is “technology agnostic” when it comes to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, said Navdeep Bains, speaking with Automotive News Canada in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January.
“We are not pushing the technology as much as we’re pushing the outcomes — reducing greenhouse gasses,” Bains said. “I think we recognize that consumers will have different tastes and preferences and choices. Businesses will have different business models that will make them cost-competitive.”
The government plans to unveil its national electric-vehicle strategy in “a matter of months” and is gathering input from automakers and other industry stakeholders in the meantime.
While not sharing details, Bains said the plan will concentrate mostly on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and less on picking technologies for the industry to develop. It was unknown whether the plan would include ZEV sales quotas similar to Quebec’s provincial plan, enacted in January 2018.
ONE PLAN ‘BETTER’
For months, the industry has awaited the federal government’s EV plan and in the meantime has had to navigate shifting green-car policies at the provincial level. British Columbia and Quebec, for instance, have introduced ZEV mandates, while Ontario in 2018 scrapped incentives for buying EVs.
“We think a national plan is better than a bunch of provincial plans,” Toyota Canada CEO Larry Hutchinson said. “Now, I’m not saying that the national plan, since who knows what it will be, will displace those provincial plans. But certainly, having one plan for Canada would be a better thing.”
Some automakers are pushing the federal government to avoid quotas for specific powertrains, such as battery-electric systems, instead urging it to set greenhouse-gas targets for the industry. Hutchinson has said the government should focus on a “comprehensive approach” to EV development that includes building out national infrastructure.
‘A VERY CLEAR STRATEGY’
“Our goal is the same as the government’s goal: to reduce greenhouse gas,” he said. “We have a very clear strategy for how to do that. There are things the federal government could do, if they put a ZEV strategy into place, to encourage lower-carbon vehicles into the market — to help us build infrastructure for [fuel cells], as an example. There are lots of things they can do.”
The federal government had promised an EV plan by the end of 2018, although Bains said it will arrive in 2019. In the meantime, the government will continue to gather input from automakers and others in the industry, he said.
“It’s a bottom-up approach. It’s not ‘Ottawa knows best,’” Bains said. “We genuinely engage stakeholders.
“We’re really going to be focusing on the consumer, both in terms of creating the conditions for the consumers to adopt this technology; but also consumer awareness is going to be a key part, along with infrastructure and some other key components.”