Think Energy

Examining Canada’s EV trajectory

Jan 22, 2024

We’ve spoken with many experts about electric vehicles (EVs) in Canada, covering everything from adoption trends to announcements, projects, and policies. This episode curates some of the most informative takeaways from these discussions. Envision Canada’s EV future with Daniel Breton of Electric Mobility Canada, Emma Jarratt of Electric Autonomy Canada, Cara Clairman of Plug’nDrive, and Loren McDonald of EVAdoption.

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Dan Seguin  00:06

This is thinkenergy, the podcast that helps you better understand the fast-changing world of energy through conversations with game changers, industry leaders and influencers. So join me, Dan Seguin, as I explore both traditional and unconventional facets of the energy industry. Hey everyone, welcome back. In today's podcast episode will focus on some of the most impactful conversations we had about electric vehicles EVs and Canada's mandate to make all light duty vehicles and passenger truck sales 100% zero emission by 2035. Interim electric vehicle targets include 20% of all vehicle sales by 2026 and 60% by 2030. If the stats are any indication, Canadians are getting on board according to s&p global, the share of the new registration of light duty zero emission vehicles in Canada in the third quarter of 2023 reached 13.3%, or one in eight new vehicles. This is up by 40% from the third quarter in 2022. There is no doubt that the federal government believes that zero emission vehicles are part of the solution to a stronger economy, cleaner air and healthier environment and good jobs. To facilitate this. We've all read about the factory announcements in 2023 that will develop a homegrown electric vehicle supply chain. There's Volkswagens 20 billion Ontario battery factory for turning its Oakville auto assembly plant into a 1.8 billion EV industrial park. There's the auto supplier Magna investing half a billion dollars into the EV supply chain right here in Ontario and Sweden's Northolt. Building a multimillion-dollar EV battery plant in Quebec. In today's episode, we're going to revisit some of the EV experts we've talked to on the show over the last couple of years and pull out the best nuggets of wisdom to share with you today. Our first highlight is with Daniel Breton from Electric Mobility Canada about what has spurred EV adoptions and the expected overall benefits to Canadians. What's been the most significant event innovation or policy that you think has changed the future trajectory for mass EV adoption for the better?

Daniel Breton  02:55

Well, I think there's not one thing in particular, you know, that has made it possible, I would say that's a growing, or it's a number of things. So obviously, battery technology has evolved quickly, over the past 1015-20 years. Just to give you an example, between 2008 to 2020. Volume density of the battery has grown eight-fold. So, when you look at batteries today you can have a lot more capacity. And a battery now than you had five years ago, 10 years ago, and it's going to keep growing as time goes by a lot of people seem to think that if you have let's say, a 60-kilowatt hour battery, it's going to be four times the size than a 15-kilowatt hour battery from let's say 2010. Actually, it's not the case at all. It's just that it has more capacity, and smaller volume per kilowatt hour, meaning that actually weight has not increased as fast as capacity. So, to me, that's very important. The other thing is that infrastructure, infrastructure deployment and infrastructure evolution has made a big difference. Just to give you an example. 10 years ago, the average electric car had 120 kilometers of range. Now it's 450. So, in 10 years, it's quadrupled. At the same time, 10 years ago, if you wanted to charge your electric car, there were hardly any fast chargers on the road. So, for example, when I was working in Montreal that I had to go to the National Assembly, I could not buy an electric car, I had to buy a plug-in hybrid electric car, because there was no fast charger but between Montreal and Quebec, that's 10 years ago. Now, if you go five years ago, a fast charger had a 50-kilowatt charger So that meant that we went from charging 120 kilometers of range in about four or five hours to charging 120 kilometers of range in about half an hour. And now with new fast chargers, you know, you know, going from 50 kilowatt to 150-kilowatt, 250 kilowatt and even 350 kilowatts, you can charge 120 kilometers of range in 10 minutes. So, things have accelerated regarding the technology of infrastructures as well. Education is making a big difference because more and more people are interested in EVs. There's still a lot of work that needs to be done. I'm often surprised to hear the same questions I was being asked 5-10-15-20 years ago regarding battery life, for instance. But I still do get those questions on social media and even sometimes on regular media.

Dan Seguin  06:03

I've got a follow up question here for you. What are some of the overall benefits as a nation when we reach 100% EV passenger sales by 2030, and all other vehicles by 2040?

Daniel Breton  06:18

Well, I would say that the first benefit is lower emissions is going to make a hell of a difference. Because you know, a lot of people say that GHG emissions from transportation represent 24% of Canada's total GHG emissions. But that's only downstream emissions. When you add upstream emissions, it's 30%, meaning that transportation is the number one source of GHG emissions in Canada. But that's huge emissions, so lowering them by I would say 50 to 80%, because you have to keep in mind that you have GHG emissions from electricity production, although it's getting much better. I mean, the last coal plant is going to close next year in Alberta. And, Nova Scotia intends to go. I think it's 80% renewable by 2030. So as time goes by, electric vehicles become cleaner and cleaner because the grid is becoming clearer and cleaner. So that's one thing. But the other thing, which is super important, and people seem to forget, is that according to Health Canada, they released a report on the impact of air pollution last year, the economic cost of air pollution is estimated at $120 billion, not millions, billions 100 $20 billion from air pollution, and that's 15,300 premature deaths, which is eight times the death toll of car accidents. So,­­ if we bring more electric vehicles on the road, it's going to significantly lower air pollution, whether it's from light duty vehicles, or medium or heavy duty vehicles. So it's going to save billions of dollars to Canadians, help our healthcare system and save 1000s of lives. I mean, this is not insignificant. This is very important. And this is something I think that needs to be said. And last but not least jobs. I've been talking about this, believe it or not, I've been coming to the House of Commons because from where I am, I can see the House of Commons right here because I'm in debt note this morning. I started to talk about the EV industry about 15 or 16 years ago to the federal government saying that we need to transition our automotive sector from gas to electric because that's where the industry is going. So, there was really not much of any interest for years. But now the federal government has really caught on, I have to salute Minister Chabang for his leadership on this particular issue to make sure to attract EV assembly, battery assembly, battery manufacturing, critical minerals strategy. So, we are seeing a real shift. I mean, you have to keep in mind that between 2020 and 2020 light duty vehicle production in Canada has been going down and down and down time and time again. We went from being the fourth biggest manufacturer in the world to not even be at the top 10 in 2020. Now because the federal government, the Ontario government, the Quebec government and other Canadian governments are investing more and more on the EV supply chain in the EV industry. We are seeing a revival of the automotive sector in Ontario. And to me this is significant. And if we hadn't done this, there will not be an automotive sector by 2030 or 22. 35 So this is huge.

Dan Seguin  10:02

On this topic of investments. I had the pleasure of speaking with Emma Jarrett, the Executive Editor of Electric Autonomy Canada. She's extensively covered Canada's grown EV manufacturing, infrastructure and battery sectors. Here's what Emma had to say on the topic. There's been a lot of news and announcements made recently. Can you talk about what stands out for you as the most notable electric vehicle projects or initiatives currently underway in Canada that you're excited about? And maybe why?

Emma Jarrett  10:37

Sure. So, I think everyone stops and takes an extra pause, when you hear there's a factory worth billions and billions of dollars going in. And that's, you know, maybe the third or fourth announcement of that type you've heard in a few months, it's really quite remarkable. The industry that's been attracted by the new investments that are coming into Canada, it's almost unprecedented. So, to see that play out, in real time to get to cover it, you know, it's a privilege. It's very interesting for me, I learn a lot every single day. And I think that, you know, the bird's eye view of the situation is that this is a real moment. And in our history, we're building a supply chain in this country that we've never had before. And it's going to be very interesting when we're looking back on it to see what kind of a fork in the road it represents for Canada that we seize this opportunity. What I'm most excited about with the announcements is the supply chain as a whole and decarbonizing that. So, it's great that we have factories that make batteries. But it would be better if they were all powered by non-emitting electricity. And it would be fantastic if the trucks that brought the refined minerals to those factories to go into the batteries were zero emission trucks, and the mining vehicles that pulled the minerals out of the ground. Were all electric. That to me is the big piece of this, you know, the whole supply chain needs to be decarbonized.

Dan Seguin  12:06

Okay, Emma, at the 2023 Federal Budget announced billions of tax credits and financing to attract investments in manufacturing, energy and tech sectors. Can you unpack some of the highlights that stood out for you in the budget as it relates to electric mobility or maybe clean energy?

Emma Jarrett  12:26

Sure. So, the big question with this year's budget was, how is it going to respond to the United States inflation Reduction Act, which was, you know, a $369 billion omnibus bill? And, you know, is it is going to squash Canada flat, we just don't have that kind of economic power at that scale. So, when the budget came out this year, I think everyone was very surprised and tentatively impressed if, if it rolls out the way some of the politicians are saying it will, that for the EV industry, and the clean tech, you know, you can, we can go toe to toe with the US using $55 billion, which is, you know, less than a quarter than what the US is, is spending. So that was just interesting. And I don't know enough about economic gymnastics to be able to say one way or the other if this is going to be a success, but it's an interesting strategy. And I look forward to seeing how it plays out. Aside from the IRA maneuvers, I was really pleased to see a new tax credit come up for decarbonization of Canada's grids $25.7 billion in tax credits to move towards sustainable, renewable, in most cases, sources of energy. And as an extension of that also smart peak management, you know, with battery storage and better load prediction and understanding. I think that's really important.

Dan Seguin  14:00

Now your coverage and knowledge of the electric mobility industry is extensive. What are your thoughts on where Canada stands on its road to meet the 2035 targets?

Emma Jarrett  14:14

We have a very long way to go. I don't think we can pretend otherwise. The steps that are being taken are encouraging. But this is a really, really big shift to turn. I think the targets are possible to meet. I don't think they were unreasonable or pie in the sky. I really do think that it is achievable whether or not it happens who can say, I hope so. And I think that whenever I hear somebody saying, you know, being pushed too fast, or they're naysaying the targets, I go, okay, fair, but can you tell me what you think the alternative is to not meeting them? We're looking at a pretty stark future environmentally if action is not taken, and I am was of the opinion that some action is better than sitting there and doing nothing.

Dan Seguin  15:03

I couldn't agree more with Emma. Okay, moving on. In this next clip, I speak to Cara Clairman, President and CEO of Plug'n'Drive, who shared her perspective on the barriers that still exist to consumers, choosing EVs and the role municipalities play in moving this needle. Here's what Cara had to say when I asked what the main barriers are to EV ownership.

Cara Clairman  15:36

Okay, well, there's lots of barriers still remaining, although we're making lots of good progress. We did a survey about four years ago. And I think the results probably would hold true today as well, asking people about what was preventing them from choosing an electric vehicle. And actually, the number one barrier was price, which surprised us. We expected people to say range or lack of public infrastructure or something like that. But three to one, they actually said, they thought EVs were too expensive. And so, we know that the upfront sticker price is a problem for people, it is still a bit more expensive than the equivalent gas car. What people don't really know is that the total cost of ownership of an EV, even at today's prices is less. But it's always a challenge to help people understand you're going to pay more now and save later. And we have to help people see the advantage of doing that. So, I would say you know, cost and then also education because you have to help people understand that total cost of ownership over time. And actually, to help consumers on that specific point, we've, we've put a really great new tool on our website called 'Find your EV match', which really helps you see the total cost of ownership for electric vehicles income, and you can even compare an EV to your existing gas car that you currently drive and see your monthly savings. And so, this is a really, really important point. I would also say, of course, you know, we do need more infrastructure, and there still is some range hesitancy concern, but I really believe that the range issue is going away as an issue as the battery technology improves. And of course, as public infrastructure improves,

Dan Seguin  17:29

It would seem that municipalities across Canada have a large part to play to support the government's mandate, and to make charging stations more accessible. In your experience. Has this been the case? What's your view on the role municipalities play in the electrification of transit?

Cara Clairman  17:46

Yeah, municipalities do have an important role to play and I think they are starting to recognize it more and more. So, for example, one role that municipalities are playing and it's proving really important is in terms of standards for multi-unit buildings. So for example, a municipality can require a certain green standard for condos or multi-unit buildings being built in their in their territory and that will ensure that the you know roughing is there for the plugs in future and that new buildings will get built with you know, with the ability or sort of EV ready to help their citizens because let's face it, especially in the Greater Toronto Area, a lot of people live in multi-unit and we need to make it possible for these people to plug in there's other roles they can play for example, we're seeing a lot of municipalities set up you know their own EV policies for their you know, for public parking, for example, street parking for for different, making certain municipal lots available for charging. There's lots of ways that municipalities can help and there are, you know, through the associations, there's sharing I know of EV policies across municipalities that don't have to reinvent the wheel.

Dan Seguin  19:10

No need to reinvent the wheel. I love this good pun. Now. Last, but certainly not least, is my interview with the EV evangelist himself, Loren McDonnell of EV Adoption. Loren has spent decades analyzing trends in EVs and charging technology. He joined me on the show to share his thoughts and had some surprising and insightful things to say. What has been the most important or significant recent event in your opinion, that will positively change the future for electric vehicles?

Loren McDonald  19:50

I would say there's sort of two things that are kind of closely connected. One is the Ford F 150 Lightning, as you as you both probably know, you know, and pickups are pretty popular and candidate as well. But you know, the F 150, the regular F 150 internal combustion engine has been the top selling vehicle, not just pickup, but the top selling vehicle of any type in America, and actually the world for 40 straight years. And so the fact that this sort of mainstream popular vehicle, a pickup truck is actually and it's being delivered. Now the first deliveries are starting, like this week of the electric version is, I've called it this the game changer, the single most important EV in history, right? And you could make arguments for lots of different ones for different reasons, right. But I think, to go mainstream, this signals to those people in the Midwest as an example. Oh, I guess this isn't just for wealthy, you know, granola eating people in California. This is a work truck, this is, you know, this is actually acceptable. And the second part of it, obviously, which you know, we'll talk a bit about more later, I'm sure your the bi directional charging capability is sort of an eye opener. And then the last thing I would say is just sort of gas prices, right. And so, gas prices, again, which I know we'll talk about some more, may make people more aware of alternatives to the internal combustion engine. And so EVs are kind of having their moment right now, because of that.

Dan Seguin  21:41

Okay. Now, time to leave it all on the floor. What is something you want the average combustion engine car owner to know about EVs, that maybe they don't already know, Loren gloves off, go for it.

Loren McDonald  21:59

Really, I think pretty, pretty simple that charging your electric vehicle is more like having to charge a smartphone than how you feel your gas car. Right. And just to expand briefly on that is, you know, get most consumers there, their perception is that refueling and recharging an EV is the same as going to a centralized gas station and stuff. And it's not till you own one, and experience it and drive it a lot that you realize, no, it's actually more like a smartphone where you know, you, you know, put it in your bed stand and plug it in, you wake up in the morning, and it's recharged or whatever. And that's the same thing with your EV. Assuming you have access to home charging, right? Go into the garage plugin, wake up and it's charged. And, you know, the, the, the nuance to that is, is that and I've got this amazing chart that I that I use in presentations that shows like a fuel gauge, for you know, like most consumers, when they drive a gas car, what do they do, they drive the car down to empty quarter of a tank, below empty, whatever they're comfortable with. And then they pull into a gas station and fill it up to fall. And you know, this, Dan, that's not how you refuel an electric vehicle, you replenish what you use, right? So, if you drive 30 miles today, you plug in and you replenish that third, and maybe actually even don't, maybe you wait a couple of days, right? You drive it down, and then you do it right, it sort of depends on your comfort zone. The only time through refueling experience for an EV is analogous to a gas car is when you go on those road trips, right? And those either so you know, weekend one or a long road trip, and then you do have to do that centralized thing. But otherwise, I think this is the single biggest educational hurdle that we have because it's not something you can explain to people. They actually have to like the experience to then the light bulb goes, Oh, yeah, this is like my smartphone.

Dan Seguin  24:12

And there you have it. Wise words from our guest, Loren McDonnell, the EV evangelists. Sometimes changing our mindset can help make you see things in a new light. And that's our show for today. If you like what you heard, feel free to revisit the full episodes featuring our renowned EV experts. We'll include links in the show notes so you can find these episodes and guests you're most interested in. And of course, don't forget to subscribe. Again. Thank you for joining me today as this sector and topic continues to evolve and grow. I for one, as a longtime EV owner, I am excited to see what the near future holds for Canada and for consumers. Until next time, thank you for listening to thinkenergy podcast. Thanks for tuning in for another episode of the think energy podcast. Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review wherever you're listening. And to find out more about today's guests or previous episodes, visit I hope you will join us again next time as we spark even more conversations about the energy of tomorrow.