The future of vehicles will be electric.
Though polarizing and seemingly far off, through legislation and policy by governments from across the world, it’s not a matter of if but when the majority of drivers will have an electric vehicle.
While setting goals is an important aspect of the climate crisis, the bigger questions are how will we get there, what will it cost and how do we ensure people of all incomes are included?
For now, there are no real fulsome answers to those questions.
While the transition from combustion-based vehicles to electric is going to be gradual as opposed to flipping on a switch, more planning is needed from all levels of the private and public sectors.
The federal government aims to have 20 per cent of new vehicle sales be electric by 2026, jumping to 60 per cent by 2030. When 2035 rolls around, all vehicle sales are required to be electric.
In other reaches of the globe, governments have taken similar or more aggressive stances to switch to electric vehicles.
Great Britain has a 2030 goal of ending the sale of all gas and diesel vehicles, while the United States has proposed stricter vehicle pollution legislation that aims to require about two-thirds of vehicle sales to be electric by 2032.
The European Union reached an agreement last year that all cars and vans would produce zero emissions by 2035.
Germany hit one million electric vehicles on the road in 2021 and has its sights set on making it 15 million electric vehicles by 2030. The German government also introduced a $6.3 billion Euros subsidy program to build tens of thousands of charging stations in the next three years. It also plans to cap electricity prices.
A necessary component to achieving those goals is creating the infrastructure to go along with it, but at a large and lower levels.
This year alone, Canada has added a pair of electric vehicle battery factories – albeit at a significant subsidy cost from the government – in St. Thomas and Windsor, Ont. that will assist with building vehicles.
At a level that will impact the majority of people, having charging stations not only at key locations but also at residences is an essential component.
To reach that, there will be a cost to people, and federal, municipal and provincial governments will have to decide sooner than later if they want or need to be in the subsidy game. The reality is without such subsidies or grants, the average person is simply unable to afford to make the switch.
The looming reality for many families is that having two or more vehicles per household is likely to be fewer and fewer. At the same time, single-family homes are being less prioritized in the majority of urban areas of the country and an emphasis on densification is taking greater strides.
With the federal government throwing billions at creating new housing, there’s no better time to look at adding necessary infrastructure to new builds rather than waiting a decade later when the costs to do so are dramatically higher.
While taking an approach of now instead of later will save money, there will always be a cost. It’s an issue all levels of government will have to grasp while public engagement with the development sector will also be vital in achieving a plan as 2035 draws nearer.
However, for this to be achieved, a monumental investment in electrical grid capacity from both the public and private sectors will have to be made. It’s not simply a strategy of throwing a cheque ending with several zeroes at the issue, but also one of rolling out proper policy to allow for the general public to be able to afford such vehicles.
Options such as time of use and tiered plans will need to be looked at to incentivize people to use electricity at off-peak periods such as overnight and people will need to change the way they use electricity.
The intent of going electric by the majority of people and organizations is there, but how we get there and the growing pains is the ultimate factor in achieving the goals.