Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault is expected to soon finalize Canada's regulation for gradually phasing out the sale of new gasoline cars by 2035. Given that vehicles typically last for 15 years on the road, this policy is absolutely essential to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Auto industry lobbyists are fighting hard against this zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) regulation by making all sorts of outlandish claims.

They must be debunked.

Canada adopts by reference the fuel economy rules that are written in Washington, D.C., by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration instead of writing our own rules. Because of this, Canada was recently forced to roll back our tailpipe emissions standards after Donald Trump did so when he was the U.S. president.

The auto lobby claims there will be “dire economic consequences” from disrupting regulatory alignment with the United States. This is false. Adopting a ZEV-specific regulation does not eliminate existing regulatory alignment with the U.S. on tailpipe emissions standards. This separate ZEV rule already exists in British Columbia and Quebec and neither of those provinces has faced an economic cataclysm. Instead, they are actually far outpacing the rest of the country in ZEV sales.

Having our own ZEV-specific rule gives Canada an “insurance policy” by allowing Canada to independently meet ZEV adoption targets regardless of the outcome of future U.S. presidential elections or potential actions by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the EPA’s recently proposed strengthening of tailpipe emissions standards. This is particularly important given that the Republican-controlled Supreme Court is already defanging the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants.

Canada has more ambitious goals for ZEV adoption than the United States, targeting 100 per cent of new car sales by 2035, which is aligned with other subnational North American jurisdictions and global partners such as the U.K., the European Union and the Accelerating to Zero Coalition of countries.

We don’t know what the U.S. hopes for 2035 because its draft tailpipe emissions rules recently proposed by President Joe Biden only go so far as aiming for 67 per cent of sales by 2032. Far from breaking with the U.S., a ZEV-specific regulation would align Canada with California and 15 other U.S. states that follow California's ZEV rule — covering 43 per cent of the North American auto market.

The irony is that while auto industry lobbyists are telling the Canadian government to stop plans to regulate ZEV supply in favour of simply following the U.S. tailpipe rules, they are also lobbying the U.S. government to scrap a strengthening of those rules.

Canadians don’t feel oppressed by auto manufacturers having to meet requirements for seatbelts, airbags or catalytic converters. Why would a requirement to have batteries instead of engines be any different? asks @ClimateNate #cdnpoli

Auto lobbyists like to claim that Canada’s proposed ZEV regulation is imposed on consumers rather than automakers and is somehow akin to a quasi-dictatorial limitation of consumer choice. But Canadians don’t feel particularly oppressed by auto manufacturers having to meet requirements for seatbelts, airbags or catalytic converters. Why would a requirement to have batteries instead of engines be any different?

The reality is automakers want to delay the transition to ZEVs because they make more profits from selling gas-guzzling SUVs and pickup trucks. Moreover, the “Big Three” North American automakers have carved out loopholes in the U.S. tailpipe rules that allow them to evade reducing emissions if they sell fewer cars and more SUVs and trucks. This is exactly what they have done, with the sales share of these kinds of fuel-inefficient vehicles in Canada steadily climbing from 55 per cent in 2010 to 86 per cent this year.

The International Energy Agency estimates that 40 per cent of the emissions reductions from increased fuel efficiency in the United States from 2010 to 2019 have been cancelled out from the growth in the size and weight of vehicles associated with this trend.

The failure of the U.S. tailpipe emissions rules to meaningfully reduce carbon emissions is why a new regulation requiring automakers to make the switch to ZEVs is so important. Canadian federal regulators estimate this policy will reduce carbon emissions by 430 million tonnes by 2050. To put that in perspective, this is equivalent to 73,000 Olympic-size swimming pools full of gasoline not burned.

Given the shortage of ZEVs and the long wait times for buyers, it is only right for Canadians to be the first in line to buy the cars our taxpayer dollars are paying to help make, rather than those vehicles being shipped overseas where supply requirements are stronger.

Auto industry lobbyists seem to only want the hefty industrial subsidies for manufacturing ZEVs, but don’t want to take any of the associated responsibility of actually reducing their fleet emissions in line with climate targets. A ZEV sales regulation is the only way to ensure that automakers that pledge to clean up their act actually follow through with their promises instead of taking our money and running.

Nate Wallace is the clean transportation program manager at Environmental Defence.

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Zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) do not actually exist. False advertising.
Halving our emissions by switching from ICE cars to EVs but doubling the number of cars (in developing world) gets us precisely nowhere.

Cars and car culture remain an environmental and human catastrophe even without a tailpipe. The energy extravagance of billions of people using private vehicles in sprawled cities is obscene. Billions of people commuting hundreds and thousands of kilometres per week is an environmental nightmare. Such a system will never be sustainable.

Eight billion people on the planet and counting. If half the population commutes hundreds and thousands of kilometres per week in two-tonne metal behemoths, energy use and ecological footprint go off the scale. The lifestyle and unlimited mobility North Americans feel entitled to — unimaginable for most of history — are ecological non-starters.

Our challenge is not merely to find a different power source for the same profligate mass-consumer lifestyle. Our main challenge and first priority must be to reduce energy- and resource consumption.
EVs take us down the wrong road.
Handing out EV subsidies to wealthy people who don't need them while ignoring the transportation needs of people who cannot afford cars or choose not to drive is unjust.
Environmentalists who envision a sustainable future should not advocate for EVs.
Wrong prescription.

The decisions we make now about urban design set the blueprint for generations to come. Cars drive sprawl, and sprawl forces people to drive. We cannot undo sprawl.
Doubling down on cars (EVs) makes already difficult problems intractable and puts solutions out of reach. Forever.
We have a choice: the public good — or private benefits for the few, while perpetuating the same ills that car culture has inflicted on society for decades.

Going forward, we need to invest in public transit, not private cars (EVs).
Build smart cities, where people live close to workplaces and amenities.
Every step away from sustainability makes the problem harder to solve.
We need to minimize the role of EVs (private cars) and maximize the role of public transit.
Invest in public transit, end sprawl, and design cities for people, not cars.

"A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It's where the rich use public transportation" – Gustavo Petro, Mayor of Bogotá

A thousand thanks. Where is the party that will make this their manifesto?

While my decades in urban design brings me to the same set of solutions you have, the one thing not taken into account above is the process of implementation.

Mayor's and planners do not have magic wands in their desk drawers and therefore cannot convert car dependent sprawl to efficacious self-contained poly-zoned towns overnight. Those suburbs and exurbs took 50 years to evolve and are well locked in. It will take decades to urbanize them to the extent transit/walk/bike mode share attains a 2/3 critical mass. Nonetheless, there has been some progress. Vancouver attained a 53% mode share mainly from zoning policy, but also from new rail, rapid bus and bike lane projects.

I believe electrified rail has the power (pun intended) to catalyze that conversion better than other physical influences. But the advent of all forms of passenger rail, from high speed intercity through fast regional commuter and separated rapid transit right down to the neighborhood tram, MUST be accompanied by key changes to outdated zoning policies.

In that light, you don't waste billions building subways and commuter rail to outlying low density sprawl if that sprawl is preserved forever by the local municipality under the protection of exclusionary zoning.
This gets down to vested interests actively steering planning policy, the latest iteration involving the words "Ford" and "greenbelt" -- which was nothing new, just a continuation of standard practice in every city everywhere, a very hard habit to overcome.

Getting private money out of public office is a tall order, but putting more senior level public money into cities to change zoning under formsl agreements and thus be rewarded with high quality transit service is probably the best course of action.

That will take several decades. Meanwhile, cars will still be with us, and the vast majority burn dinosaur piss. Replacing fossil fuels in personal transportation with clean electricity is a key tool to lower emissions while the suburbs are slowly being transformed into actual towns and small cities using rail and human scale urbanism.

There is a YouTube channel called "Not Just Bikes" with a recent video on exactly this topic, but in the Netherlands. Walkable villages and towns fully networked with big cities by rail. Wonderful urbanism with an accompanying low per capita emissions rate. (Sigh.)

EVs are a temporary fix, not a panacea. The laws of physics and basic Econ 101 work against them, mainly on the wasteful amount of energy personal transportation consumes, and the impact on family budgets. In my view, EVs will not populate road space at the same level as burner cars did; we may have reached peak car already, but the downslope will take years to play out. World demographic trends also indicate a steep decline in population in China over the next 30 years, one of the largest markets for oil, gas and cars, EV or not.

In the end, should Canada see the brightness of the urban light over the dim suburban aura (it's doubtful any time soon) then EVs will play an important but limited role. Meanwhile, they are useful and will act directly against the narrative pumped out by CAPP et al.

The most important side benefit is that EVs catalyzed the development of batteries in the electrical grid. Australia and Scotland are making huge strides in removing fossil fuels from electricity generation using predominantly EV battery tech, which then went on and stimulated non-EV, non-lithium batteries designed to be cheaper, to use common materials and to be distributed at larger scales on the grid. Coupled with EVs, this is doubly disruptive to coal and gas.

One has to be a bit more patient and look at the data before rejecting EVs out of hand.