Following the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the globe will be massively investing in, and defining policies for, economic recovery. With all fossil fuel sectors in decline, what better time to make the transition to a green economy?

And what better time for the federal government to develop an electric vehicle (EV) national strategy?

Canada does have a significant electric vehicle sector, primarily lin Quebec, and the beginnings of an EV segment in the Ontario auto industry. The current Canadian EV sector covers the entire ecosystem, such as EV school buses, trucks, urban transit buses, powertrains, batteries and raw materials, and charging infrastructure. This is backed up by world-class research capabilities.

But the piecemeal, one project at-a-time approach doesn’t make any sense when we are up against 400 electric vehicle technology manufacturers in China. In Quebec, there are 147 EV firms, which collectively employ 6,000 people.

Among the opportunities for Canada are legislative measures taken by China and the European Union, the largest and third- largest vehicle markets, requiring a transition to electric vehicles within a few years. And once global automakers bite the bullet, despite the years to amortize their investments for the most radical change in the industry in a century, the EV technologies wrapped in newly designed vehicle platforms will be available anywhere in the world.

Traditionally, Canada has cloned U.S. initiatives to address vehicle fuel consumption. The rationale for this has been Canada is part of an integrated North American market. Yet, if there is anything we have learned from the COVID-19 crisis, it is that Canada must become more self-reliant.

To be a part of this global EV transition, Canada must look east and west, rather than habitually south. The Canadian EV sector already has ties with China and Europe.

Canada’s EV manufacturing sector

A core player in the Quebec EV sector is Dana TM4. Hydro-Québec holds a 45 per cent stake in the joint venture with Ohio-based Dana . The firm has electric and hybrid drivetrain manufacturing capabilities in Boucherville, where it produces 5,000 EV motors a year, mainly for export to China. It also has a 50/50 joint venture facility in China with Prestolite E-Propulsion Systems, a supplier for trucks and buses for China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"To be a part of this global EV transition, Canada must look east and west, rather than habitually south. The Canadian EV sector already has ties with China and Europe." 

A user of TM4 electric direct drive technology is Lion of St-Jérôme, Que., one of the pioneers in the manufacturings of electric school buse. Its buses come with options for ranges of 90, 120 and 150 kilometres. Lion has about 600 suppliers, 25 per cent from Quebec.

As of early 2020, 300 Lion school buses were on the roads. In July 2019, Lion won a California contract for 200 electric school buses to be delivered by 2021. And other big contracts appear to be on the horizon.

Lion Electric is now on the verge of introducing an electric truck, the Lion8, expected sometime in 2020 . In March 2019, the Québec government injected $8.6 million in the firm. The first order is for one pilot vehicle for the Société des alcools du Québec (liquor board), with an option to buy more later on. In the works for the immediate future are Lion8 garbage/recycling trucks in collaboration with Boivin Évolution, fire trucks, tool trucks, giraffe crane models and ambulances. Partners include Demers for the ambulances and Posi-+ Technologies of Victoriaville, the second-largest giraffe crane truck manufacturer in North America. Lion is also collaborating with Fourgons TRANSIT, Systèmes PRAN et MAXIMETAL.

Manufacturers of electric urban transit buses in Canada are Nova Bus, owned by Volvo, and China’s BYD facility, which is in Newmarket, Ont.

As of January, seven three-minute charge with pantographs Nova Bus LFSe+ electric models with up to 600 km of autonomy are being used by the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) on its No. 36 Monk route. The pantographs automatically deploy in the presence of a bus via WiFi. During 2020, the STM will take delivery of four more all-electric Nova Bus vehicles for the Monk route, rendering the route entirely electric. The LFSe+ drivetrain is from Dana TM4.

Supporting the plans of the Montreal, Laval (STL) and Longueuil (RTL) transit authorities, the Quebec government plan originally called for all urban bus purchases to be electric by 2025. But the government of Québec is accelerating the timeline by supporting 95 per cent of the initiativeterminating subsidies for buses running on diesel or gasoline only.

In Ontario, the BYD Newmarket plant announced the delivery of its first two zero-emission, battery-electric buses to the Toronto Transit Commission, part of a total order by the TTC for 10 of its 40-foot K9M buses.

Winnipeg’s New Flyer is a Canadian-owned maker of electric buses, however, there is a caveat. New Flyer’s Xcelsior electric buses are manufactured in Alabama at its Vehicle Innovation Center.

The electric passenger vehicle potential in Canada may lie with Ontario’s Magna International. Magna has entered a joint venture with China’s BAIC to take over Beijing Electric Vehicle Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of BAIC.

The in-between Canadian EV manufacturers are the converters of fossil fuel-powered trucks.

One converter is the Quebec startup Nordresa. The company had the potential to attract truck manufacturers with its turn-key solutions, but could not get any financial support from the Québec or federal governments. The result was that Nordresawas sold in August 2019 to the U.S. firm Dana.

Quebec’s EcoTuned recently won a contract with Vidéotron to convert 200 trucks. Vidéotron is expected to eventually purchase 700 new electric trucks.

A look at the EV-charging infrastructure in Canada

The largest concentration of charging stations in North America is the Circuit électrique ADDÉnergie stations funded by Hydro-Québec — 2,300 units as of early 2020. Of this number, there are 225 fast-charging stations.

ADDÉnergie of Quebec City manufactures charging stations under the brand name Flo and has its own Flo network. In addition to an extensive Flo network in Quebec, Flo Canadian stations can be found in New Brunswick and British Columbia. In the U.S., Flo will install 100 stations in New York and recently purchased 125 stations in Los Angeles. As of February, Flo operates more than 5,500 commercial stations, including 225 fast-chargers.

Flo’s private chargers sales in 2019 amounted to about 25,000 units.

Elmec of Shawinigan, Que., is a competitor in electric vehicle-charging infrastructure. It also offers a fullyelectric agriculture robot vehicle.

What’s happening here in EV research

The research and development pillar behind many of the already mentioned stakeholders is the Institut de véhicule innovant (IVI). IVI was involved in the development of the first Lion electric school buses, the Exprolink-Madvac vacuum vehicle, and the Elmec electric robot agriculture vehicle.

The ABB's Excellence in e-mobility centre, a $90-million world headquarters in Montreal, is focused on tailor-made EV infrastructure solutions.

The Hydro-Québec Centre d'excellence en électrification des transports et en stockage d’énergie d’Hydro-Québec has proven to be a global forerunner in battery patents. In February, it signed an agreement with Mercedes to develop solid-state batteries to offer greater range and address battery overheating. The team for this project is made up of 25 researchers in Quebec and Germany.

Battery manufacturing and raw materials

Quebec has a battery manufacturing division of a company from France, Bolloré Blue Solutions.

Completing the battery package, Quebec has all the raw materials for battery manufacturing, lithium, graphite, cobalt and aluminium. But there has yet to be a financially successful firm to exploit the opportunities. Nemaska Lithium is under creditor protection and is restructuring, despite a government of Quebec investment of $130 million for 13 per cent equity. Nouveau Monde Graphite of Saint-Michel-des-Saints has yet to get to the starting point.

A look at Canadian government initiatives

The current Canadian “voluntary targets” for zero emission vehicles is an oxymoron. In the absence of legislation, there is no process in place to verify compliance.

A pillar of existing Canadian EV policy is the Canadian corporate average fuel economy standards (CAFE), which is a copy-and-paste version of the U.S. CAFE. On this, there are several reasons for emulating the EU and China, rather than the U.S.

It is not just a matter that the Trump administration intends to weaken the U.S. CAFE standards conceived under the Obama reign. Nor is it the years of certain legal battles by U.S. states to contest Trump’s proposals. The reality is, relative to the requirements of China and the EU vehicle legislation, the existing U.S. CAFE is just too weak.

The Obama CAFE formula undermines its target for an average fuel economy of 4.2L/100 km by 2025 by having different CAFE targets for each footprint category, footprints based on the distance between the front and rear wheels, with less stringent CAFEs for larger vehicles. With over 70 per cent of U.S. sales being SUVs and light duty trucks, this latter CAFE feature may be regarded as a loophole. Also dreadful, Trump’s CAFE ambitions include reverting back to the previous testing formula, which overestimated “real world” fuel economy, skewing the numbers on fuel economy in favour of the automakers.

In Canada, SUVs and light duty trucks represented 71 per cent of 2019 vehicle sales.

The remaining major component of existing EV initiatives pertains to rebates: the $5,000 federal rebate on vehicles under $55,000, provided the base model is under $45,000; the Quebec rebate of up to $8,000 for an EV and $600 for the installation and purchase of a wall connector (charging unit) for vehicles having a retail price limit of $60,000; and B.C.’s EV rebate of $3,000 for vehicles not over $55,000 and up to $350 for a home wall connector.

For the national and provincial rebate programs, half of the amounts described above apply to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Since EVs are expected to reach purchase price parity around 2022, the rebates are temporary. Subsequently, an EV will be less expensive than a comparably equipped legacy vehicle due to lower maintenance and energy costs.

National Electric Vehicle Strategy: Addressing Recovery and Climate Challenges Concurrently

With road transportation representing approximately 60 per cent of petroleum consumption, it is clear aCanadian national holistic vision is required. This entails the federal government shedding its addictions to fossil fuel industry subsidies and pipelines to serve dead-end markets and focusing on the electrification of transport, in collaboration with both the Quebec and Ontario governments plus the EU and China public and private sectors.

On developing the local EV market, one could start with either the quota concept of China or the strict emission standards of the EU. But the former is probably easier to implement.

From there, there is a whole host of prospects to explore.

Possibilities for collaboration with electric vehicle manufacturers encompass several EV manufacturers in China with ambitions for North America. This contrasts with the U.S. Big 3 for which there appears to be considerable distance between announced plans and actions.

BYD is already present with electric bus and truck manufacturing in California and electric buses in Ontario. The next BYD North American entry phases comprise the BYD e-6 taxis, beginning with Montreal E-Taxi, with a goal of 2,000 units for Quebec by 2022, and eventually the BYD Qin electric passenger vehicle.

China’s NIO is another company that wants in on the North American market. Presently on the Chinese market, the company currently has a seven-passenger electric SUV, the ES8, and a crossover coupe in the Tesla Model Y category, the ES6.

While there are other Chinese EV manufacturers that will go for the North American market, many Chinese automakers will start their foreign activities on the Old Continent because of the existing strict legislation there. They include Chery and Geely, the latter the owner of Volvo.

Canada should also be seizing the moment with European manufacturers. By way of example, the Volkswagen Group has intentions to spend tens of billions to become the No. 1 EV manufacturer globally.

Combined with the above, the Canadian government could look at what China and the EU are doing for ways to strengthen Canada’s battery, raw material, manufacturing and recycling sectors.

In China, all electric vehicle batteries for their market must be manufactured domestically. This has positioned Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd., or CATL, to be among the select few global players. A German CATL plant will start operations in 2022 and, in line with global expansion plans, CATL has set up subsidiaries in the U.S., Japan and France.

In Germany, government support is anticipated for battery manufacturing.

Completing circular economy considerations, since 95 per cent to 99 per cent of an electric vehicle battery can be recycled, China has issued rules that all battery-powered vehicle manufacturers must be responsible for battery recycling. China is also experimenting with a battery recycling framework.

The European Union has similar requirements.

Finally, there is the option of a timeline for bans on internal combustion vehicles. For Norway, the ban comes into effect in 2025, while for the Netherlands, Denmark and India, the bans apply in 2030.

Canada has many paths to choose from to change its trajectory, simultaneously developing the EV sector in the country, while lowering emissions from road transportation.

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so exciting.
Yet in Ont/scario, Doug and the Destroyers, in thrall to kock brothers and Bay St /fossilbacker bankers have scuttled 287 green projects. Oshawa assembly plant workers are begging for an EV retrofit. but crickets from Doug AND Justine transcanada trudeau so far.

Maybe the fossil free fall and worries about legacy will push T to actually take climate crisis action????? we can hope and take to the streets if they don't get a grip with the actual state of the world

Electric cars are not remotely green. EVs have a huge footprint. Car culture drives urban sprawl. Neither is remotely sustainable.
With their huge footprint, EVs wouldn't be green even if they ran on fairy dust. Much of that footprint is embedded in mining and manufacture of materials. About half of the energy used over the lifespan of a car is expended during its production. Using two tons of metal to transport a 150 lb human being is an ecological non-starter.
The larger the range, the bigger the battery, the heavier the vehicle, and the worse for our environment.
Halving our emissions but doubling the number of cars (in developing world) gets us precisely nowhere.

In perpetuating sprawl, EVs exacerbate the problem and delay real solutions. A one-Earth footprint cannot accommodate an energy-intensive lifestyle where people drive everywhere they go -- or an urban model relying on millions of cars to transport millions of people.
EVs support the unsustainable urban model underlying our high energy/resource consumption. We cannot solve the paradigm problem simply by replacing internal combustion engines with electric motors.
In promoting EV cars, we are still going down the wrong road. Never mind the EV detour. Let's go straight to the solutions. No time to lose.
Sprawl makes efficient public transit impossible. Transit use in many cities is dismal and going down.

No solution to sprawl except to hit the brakes. The decisions we make now set the blueprint for generations to come.
We need to redesign our cities for people, not cars. Invest massively in public transit, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure — and smart urban design that allows people to live close to their place of work and amenities.
The automobile lifestyle will never be green. No car is compatible with a one-planet ecological footprint.
An EV car future is a costly commute away from sustainability goals.

To begin, let me underline that we share the same values, even if we differ on how to arrive at a transition to a green economy.

As a former Government of Canada employee dedicated to climate policy legislation, programs, etc, I have learned that only multifaceted complimentary initiatives work and achieve social acceptability. There aren't any one-off magic bullets, such as a price on carbon, government cannot dictate how people should live in a democracy.

Addressing your points, one-by-one, first electric vehicles have a lower life-cycle footprint even when the power source is a fossil fuel, like coal.

Second, as Wayne Gretzky said, it is not where the puck is, rather it is where it is going that counts. In 2019, 75% of new electrical generation capacity installed was associated with renewables. As well, renewables are cheaper for two-thirds of the world. Coal and natural gas are in a free-fall.

Third, since good government climate policy addresses all sources of GHGs, it is important to acknowledge that, even in the European Union and China, which have excellent public transit systems, many people use personal vehicles for trips for which public transit is impractical or non-existent. Recognizing that personal vehicles will always be a part of the national portrait, these latter jurisdictions have stringent vehicle legislation in effect now, in 2020. Indeed, China had 421,000 electric buses in operation in 2019 and will have 30,000 km of high-speed rail lines by the end of 2020.

Further on the third point, one climate policy does not exclude another. Provincial and regional governments must enact legislation to limit urban sprawl.

Fourth, I fully agree with you that an electric vehicle in peak hour traffic is almost as much a problem, as an internal combustion vehicle. Governments must offer attractive alternatives including better public transportation, more bicycle paths, more pedestrian friendly commercial/work centres.

Fifth, regarding electric versus internal combustion vehicles, it must be noted that an internal combustion engine is far more complex and requires more steel than an electric propulsion system, therefore the latter has a lower construction footprint. Another is that an electric vehicle is 3 times more efficient in transferring energy to the wheels than a gasoline-powered vehicle. Another factor is once built, a gasoline vehicle continues to require more petroleum, each tank with a high fossil fuel extraction, production, transportation and methane leaks GHGs, whereas the battery power vehicle simply needs to be recharged once its energy source is depleted.

In closing the simple, easy, answers do not work and can lead to rejection. A holistic approach is required such that in the annual budget sustainable development and economic development are integrated and nearly all policy and legislative agendas enhance each other, providing powerful messages to the private sector and individual citizens to choose environmentally-friendly choices. For the many types of individuals, organizations, firms and so on, different sets of solutions are necessary to achieve the green transition goal.

Unfortunately, Canada has never had a government not aligned with the powerful lobbies.

Well said, Will. I am an urban designer with three decades experience and fully recognize the powerful negative effect the automobile has had on cities and the climate. There's nothing like devoting 40+% of all urban land to tarmac (much of it dead storage space for parked cars) to steepen the climb up the mountain to achieve for sustainable urbanism. Part of that needs to under a national plan that includes Canadian EVs.

I see it as an energy problem -- or more specifically a function of physics -- where the massive inheritance of dead dinosaur petrol cannot be replaced at a 1:1 ratio by electricity because there is too much built-in waste in the system. There is also a failure to practice circular life cycle accounting. Some things will have to give, and my guess is the overall energy efficiency profile of society will improve concurrent with a net reduction in overall energy consumption.

We are sure to see that on the car-shackled roads, a good number of which may be liberated for human beings. The wisdom of Vancouver's retention of the lowly electric trolley bus is prevalent in that notion. High-capacity rail married to land use and structural efficacy in cities is perhaps the most powerful tool in the toolbox to fight climate change and energy waste in our domestic economy.

I'd go as far as to suggest this thinking should be carried through to the agricultural land surrounding our cities. Practicing conservation tillage, planting nutrient-fixing cover crops and promoting local food security in greenbelts at the urban edge have tremendous capacity to build the soil resource, increase farmer's yields and income, reduce expenses on fuel and machinery repair, maintain local food security using very short and resilient supply chains, and pull tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere and capture it in the soil and plants. When nearby suburban malls surrounded by massive parking lots are urbanized with rail and decent town planning, let them have a central public market showing off a plethora of local produce.

Great article and links.

Thanks for your response.
Car culture is an environmental disaster REGARDLESS of propulsion method. Car culture will never be sustainable, regardless of energy source and motor type.

Cars drive sprawl, and sprawl drives cars. Sprawl forces people to drive everywhere they go. Once people get in that habit, it's hard to break. Obscene energy expenditure. Lost productivity, loss of green space, sedentary lifestyle, millions of deaths and injuries, roadkill, and social isolation. Insanely long commutes in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Sprawl multiplies congestion, energy consumption and waste, time and productivity loss, emissions, and footprint.
In cities across North America, the blueprint for sprawl, urban blight, perpetual eyesores, and ecological disaster was set in stone decades ago. The further out people live, the more time and energy it takes to move them around.
Hopelessly unsustainable.

EV cars do not support a "transition to a green economy". Just the opposite. EV cars are an anti-solution — delaying and obstructing the only viable solutions. Cars/sprawl is antithetical to efficient public transit. Choose one or the other. Not both. Sprawl is virtually impossible to undo. How do you convert sprawled cities into walkable cities? How do you make transit efficient in sprawled cities?
Training more generations of humans to drive (everywhere they go) by car makes paradigm shift (lifestyle change) even harder.

In the end, it does not matter how the car is powered. The car itself and the sprawl it drives is fundamentally and irrevocably unsustainable. So all discussion about which motor is more efficient and least carbon intensive is besides the point.
Cars and car culture will never be green. How can environmentalists in good conscience advocate technologies, lifestyles, and policies that take us away from our sustainability goals? That degrade our life-support systems and shorten our term here on Earth?

"What’s become clear is that EVs have become better, but they are still not good. Nor should we expect them to be; after all there are bound to be major environmental consequences of a lifestyle that demands a personal vehicle(s)."

In promoting EVs, we are still going down the wrong road. Whether we go over the cliff at 100 mph or 10 mph makes little difference.
We know our destination: sustainability and survival. The direct route is the only route. No detours from which there is no coming back.

Which car is greener? Which brand of cigarette is healthier? Whose atomic bombs are safer?
The key question is: "Which car is compatible with a one-planet Earth footprint? Which car is sustainable?
A) None of the above.

"We found that battery electric cars generate HALF the emissions of the average comparable gasoline car, even when pollution from battery manufacturing is accounted for."
Again, if we halve our emissions but double the number of cars (in developing world), that gets us nowhere.

The comparison with ICE vehicles depends on vehicle and battery size.

A 2016 study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology: "Larger EVs can have higher lifecycle GHG emissions than smaller conventional vehicles."

Electric motors are far more efficient than the internal combustion engine, but EVs may be twice the weight. If you're stuck in a traffic jam, in either case energy efficiency approaches zero.
The trend is toward larger and heavier vehicles. Canada has the worst vehicle fuel economy in the world. Canada’s vehicles have the highest average fuel consumption and CO2 emissions per km driven (IEA). Canada’s vehicles are also the largest and the second heaviest in the world.
"When it comes to vehicles, Canada tops the charts for poor fuel economy" (The Conversation, May 8, 2019)

"If we really cared about CO2, we’d reduce car size and weight."
It remains true that "all EVs produce fewer emissions over the lifecycle than conventional cars of the same weight class, and this holds true even when the electricity grid that powers them is mostly generated by fossil fuels."
"...But, the lack of regulation differentiating between EVs effectively encourages carmakers to sell cars with bigger batteries and longer ranges.
"...many EVs produced today feature a range that is too high, and the trend is towards even bigger batteries.
"...The uncomfortable reality is that battery manufacturing plays a bigger role in lifecycle emissions than anything else the carmaker does.
"...regulators should not encourage this race to sell EVs with bigger batteries. "It’s a race, but it’s a very stupid race. It’s not towards a good solution. If you switch from oil to cobalt and lithium, you have not addressed any problem, you have just switched your problem.
"...petrol-engine cars weighing just 500kg — such as the French Ligier microcar or some popular "kei cars" in Japan — emit less lifecycle emissions than a mid-sized EV even when driven in France, where carbon-free nuclear power generates three-quarters of electricity.

"In Green Illusions Zehner pushes for govt to put more money into public transit projects that will affect many more people before backing EVs that he believes benefit only few. "If we’re looking at ways to decrease the energy use in the U.S., building more walkable and bikeable villages and cities and towns of various sizes would be a better funding priority than subsidizing electric vehicles."

"A few more inconvenient truths about EV CO2 emissions"
"Tesla battery production releases as much carbon dioxide as eight years of gasoline driving"

The key issue is not "social acceptability", but sustainability. Planet Earth does not negotiate. If we fail to respect nature's limits, Planet Earth will dispense with us.
What is our real goal? Do you want to drive your kids to the soccer game? Take the family to the mall? Drive to work each day? Or do you want to live sustainably?
The only sustainable path lies in investment in super-efficient, comprehensive mass transit and intelligent urban design. No time to waste building the wrong kind of transportation and cities.

It's a matter of pricing goods and services properly. Internalize all health and environmental costs. Full-cost accounting. Unsustainable goods, services, and design become prohibitively expensive. Guided by correct pricing signals, consumers can make rational choices.
The surest (only?) way to stop this madness is to price things properly. Full-cost accounting prices climate change, deadly smog, massive oil spills, sour gas leaks, mining mayhem, toxic tailings ponds, urban sprawl, insanely long commutes, the personal automobile, air travel, and cruise ships out of existence. We can't afford them.
Until then we shall continue to subsidize our own destruction.