The City of Toronto and the province of Ontario recently took a small step in the right direction on electric vehicles (EVs). They set a target for 2030 that would require three times as many EVs on Ontario roads than they have today – about 315,000. Of course, given that Ontario currently has about 385,000 EVs, that would still represent only about 1% of the province’s current vehicle fleet. The province and the city are effectively setting a target for EV deployment that would be twice the size of the current EV market.
As it happens, our own city has already had two years of experience with this sort of rapid and ambitious EV deployment – when it launched its EV pilot program in 2017. We saw an increase in EV registrations in the following months and were able to beat the provincial targets for how many EVs would be on Ontario’s roads by 2020. It was a positive first-time experience but it made clear that moving towards a full EV transition in Ontario requires a lot more coordination and efficiency between the government and industry and significantly greater political will and action by all levels of government and all segments of society.
Ontario plugs in to electric cars: ‘My only concern was all the wires’ Read more
None of the city’s successes with EVs last year are enough to overcome the impact of the 25% provincial sales tax on EVs – or the still formidable supply challenges facing the industry. A 20% sales tax on EVs would make EVs more costly in Ontario than they would be in many US states. Ontario’s 2050 goal – which still calls for 80% EVs on Ontario roads by 2050 – would put the cost to consumers well beyond the $3,000-$5,000 lower price point that exists now. And the province is certainly not the first government to assume an entirely EV future for its citizens, but they are obviously the first to set a date like 2050.
In addition, many critics of EV adoption, particularly in the automotive industry, seem to think that EVs are just exotic and impractical things – with no place on our roads. In our experience, this is just not the case. EV dealerships consistently report an 80% or higher acceptance rate among consumers. Whether we’re looking at Green Jeans (the “add-on” brand that allows users to make their existing vehicles more efficient) or a gasoline-engine ride-on battery option such as our City of TokyoEV – people are interested and receptive to this kind of product.
A useful comparison to make, of course, is with gasoline-engine vehicles – which are still our primary fuels for decades to come. It seems obvious that EVs are a significant step toward a sustainable future – but it’s not nearly so obvious that anyone else has any realistic path to take along with us.
In the meantime, EVs are already finding a place in Ontario’s lineup. We plan to launch five EV models by 2020: three smaller “starter” EVs, and two large eight-passenger plug-in hybrid models, which currently have the largest numbers of registrations in North America.
We’re also working on a range of strategies to help mitigate the remaining barriers to EVs, such as the supply constraints and the demand side issues related to our growing urban infrastructure. One of the first things we did when the EV program started was to study Ontario’s massive electrical distribution network – and no one had actually done this before. We learned how connected those lines are, which led to several innovative initiatives with our regional utilities to streamline the charging and distribution of electric vehicles within a community.
Our efforts are quite ambitious, but ambitious isn’t the right word to describe our efforts in just any other direction. Our efforts seem to be part of a much larger effort in the city of Toronto to transform our entire transportation infrastructure to be more green and more sustainable. But it’s not just about EVs – electric vehicles can help us achieve many of these goals too. EVs can help us improve our air quality by promoting improved energy conservation and creating a more reliable and more clean electricity grid. They can help us build sustainable communities that encourage shorter commutes and are more connected to local amenities. We can promote the use of technology to make travel more personal and enhance local mobility. All of these advances are possible when we use EVs to build an efficient, resilient and more environmentally friendly transportation system.