rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Government support for electric vehicles drives down emissions

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Electric vehicles won't save us from runaway climate change, but they're part of the solution, along with support for public transit and active transport like waking and cycling. The transportation sector accounts for almost one-quarter of the world's carbon emissions, so it's an area where change is necessary and possible.

As Norway and other countries are demonstrating, incentives and tax policy can move people quickly into cleaner vehicle options. Half of Norway's cars are expected to be electric this year, and it's on track to meet its commitment to have only zero-emissions cars sold by 2025. Its strong EV mandate, inexpensive hydropower, tax incentives, and price parity with internal combustion engine vehicles contributed to this success.

Reduced tolls, bus lane access, and free parking and ferry rides sweetened the option for Norwegians. Only four per cent of the country's EV owners say they would go back to conventional cars.

Norway is ahead of much of the world, but electric vehicles are on track to reach more than half of global new car sales by 2040. Government policies have driven this shift. The Norwegian government offered about U.S.$1 billion in incentives this year, including waiving high vehicle import duties and taxes for electric car buyers. The government plans to phase these out in 2021, gradually replacing them with higher taxes on fossil-fuelled vehicles.

China used government incentives to increase EV production last year by 50 per cent over the previous year, and built the world's first fully electric bus fleet in Shenzhen. India has a U.S.$1.4 billion, three-year subsidy plan to jumpstart electric and hybrid vehicle sales.

Although Canada isn't embracing the full policy package needed for significant behavioural change, it's making progress, with commitments to reach 100 per cent zero-emission vehicle sales by 2040, and 2025 and 2030 targets coming. But it's a long road ahead. Just 2.5 per cent of total vehicle sales last year were electric. Federal rebates implemented in May should boost electric vehicle sales, but we need mandatory targets.

Provincially, British Columbia and Quebec are echoing California, which in 1990 became the first place to set up a zero-emission vehicle standard. One of 10 new vehicles purchased there last year were EVs. Quebec's mandate sets a target for one-third of all new vehicles sales to be EV by 2030. BC's mandate, expected to become law soon, requires that all new light-duty car and truck sales be zero-emission by 2040. That could play a big role in helping the province meet its transportation climate targets.

Municipalities and provinces can help prepare for the EV transition by building more public charging infrastructure and requiring new residential buildings to install chargers or be electric-vehicle friendly. Other ways to lower transportation emissions include cleaning up the electricity used to charge EVs and reducing the carbon content of fuels for non-electric vehicles with biofuels or hydrogen produced from renewables.

Even without government interventions, electric vehicles may cost less than gas-powered cars by 2024, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts. Add lower operating and maintenance costs and savings from forgoing high-priced gas, and there are many incentives to switch. Hydro-Québec's online calculator estimates it costs $10.65 to drive a gas-fuelled compact car 100 kilometres and $2.10 for an electric.

EV travel range continues to increase and they're performing well in cold weather. Electric motors are also efficient, whereas internal combustion engines waste much of the energy as heat. Used EV batteries are finding new lives in energy storage, and researchers are investigating how to make the lithium supply chain, from extraction to recovery, a model of the circular economy.

Despite their appeal, single occupancy electric vehicles don't address congestion in growing urban areas or the amount of valuable space parking consumes. Investments in active transportation and transit infrastructure promote healthier lives and livable urban environments. Shared high-speed, non-polluting transit remains the gold standard for livability, equity and health. Committed federal funding for transit is essential to create the kind of resilient communities climate change demands.

recent study shows Canada's climate is warming at twice the global rate and that to prevent environmental catastrophe, human behaviour must change. Canada would be wise to emulate Norway and other countries and speed up its transition to a low- to no-carbon future.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications and Policy Specialist Theresa Beer

Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

Photo: Noya Fields/Flickr​

Help make rabble sustainable. Please consider supporting our work with a monthly donation. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.