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Canada’s New 2035 Gas Car Ban May Not Ban Gas Cars

Canada's New 2035 Gas Car Ban May Not Ban Gas Cars

Canada unveiled $9 billion2030 Emissions Reduction Planwith several provisions aimed at reducing the country’s emissions, including a plan to mandate 20% zero-emission new light-duty vehicle sales by 2026, rising to 60% by 2030 and 100% by 2035. But it may not actually ban petrol cars – depending on how the plan defines plug-in hybrids.

This plan was unveiled by the Canadian environment agency, Environment and Climate Change Canada. However, a different agency, Transport Canada, defines “zero emission vehiclesas “a vehicle that has the potential to produce zero tailpipe emissions.” They can still have a classic internal combustion engine, but must also be able to run without using it.

Thus, all-electric, hydrogen, and even plug-in hybrid vehicles are considered “zero emissions” for Canada’s current EV incentives, even though the latter still produce emissions most of the time. We asked if this new regulation would count PHEVs, and neither agency was able to give us an answer (we’ll update this article if they end up doing so).

The plan also calls for zero-emission medium and heavy-duty vehicle sales of 35% by 2030 and 100% by 2040, with possible exceptions depending on the feasibility of particular applications. The government is studying the possibility of additional interim targets in mid-2020 for these vehicles.

To achieve this goal, $400 million will be spent to add 50,000 EV chargers to Canada’s charging network. The Canada Infrastructure Bank will invest an additional $500 million in electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Canadians can currently get up to $5,000 back on the purchase of a zero-emission vehicle by Canada’s iZEV Program. This plan spends an additional $1.7 billion to extend these incentives to Canadian EV buyers.

In Canada, transportation is the second largest sector for emissions, just behind oil and gas and well ahead of electricity. Canada’s electricity is generally very low-emission, with approximately 60% generated from hydroelectricity. Coal and gas combined account for only one-sixth of electricity generation in Canada, about the same amount as nuclear, with most of the rest generated by wind. But Canada will need to add more power generation to meet its transportation (and building electrification) goals, and the plan invests $850 million in programs serving that goal.

But despite this clean electricity, Canada still has fairly high emissions per capita, roughly on par with the United States. This is largely due to high transportation emissions from a heavily suburban and rural population, and the oil and gas sector, which accounts for a large part of their economy and accounts for about a fifth of the country’s exports.

This zero-emission vehicle plan helps reduce a lot of those transportation emissions – and will reduce demand for oil, which should also have an effect on oil and gas emissions. The plan will focus specifically on reducing emissions in the oil and gas sector, in addition to zero-emission vehicle mandates.

There are many other aspects to the emissions reduction plan, but we have mainly focused here on the transport-related aspects. Take a look at the government information page.

Electrek’s Grasp

On the one hand, this is an impressive move from a country that is both sprawling (with long driving distances and many suburbs) and quite economically dependent on fossil fuels. The United States, home to the world’s largest maker of electric vehicles and much of the global tech industry, hasn’t even been able to come together for a 2045 goal yet, and even states normally remarkable as California have only achieved one 2035 target. Washington is the only place in North America with an earlier goal, aim for 2030.

On the other hand, 2035 is an unambitious goal for electrification, the one that we could meet literally no action by vehicle manufacturers regarding current and planned vehicle lines. All they have to do is not develop any new gas models from now on – even if they continue development on current gas models to their natural end – and naturally we will see the end new gas models for sale by 2035.

Plus, as far as we know, this plan may still allow plug-in hybrids, which would make it a pretty meaningless mandate. We have seen a few other similar “bans” from China and Japan which are equally unambitious and still allow hybrids.

Depending on the specifics of the regulations, we could see a bunch of cars like the original Plug-In Prius and its 5.2kWh battery and 11 miles of EV range, which many owners never bothered to plug in and only bought to access tax credits or other incentives like carpool stickers (in the US/California, anyway). It is by no means a “zero emissions” vehicle, especially if it is never plugged in.

And we are already moving far too slowly in the fight against climate change. We need to act as quickly as possible, and I think everyone can do it better than 2035. It’s like an alcoholic promising to quit drinking… in 2035. The sooner all nations and peoples act, the better.

Hopefully, this will at least prompt the culturally and geographically similar United States to consider a similar national delay — which we don’t currently have. That way, standout states like California can set a better deadline than their current deadline of 2035, and laggards can toss and pick up the remnants of all gas-powered cars still made in 2034.

And, as we see in Norway, once a target is set, the market often adapts and prepares to hit that target early anyway. Nobody wants to be stuck with a gas-powered albatross around their neck as everyone else has moved on to greener electric pastures. This is why, for example, Norway, which was aiming to end gasoline car sales in 2025, is currently at nearly 100% electric vehicle sales three years earlier than expected. We expect similar things to happen in other areas that adopt 100% EV goals.

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