May 22, 2023
Canada’s electric vehicle industry sparks interest, as the government aims at selling only zero-emission vehicles by 2035. It’s a chance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, while also developing a sustainable electricity and transportation system. Canada has invested in EV manufacturing, infrastructure and batteries. But is it enough? Emma Jarratt, award-winning investigative journalist and the Executive Editor at Electric Autonomy Canada, weighs in on episode 112 of thinkenergy.
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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 Segin, as I explore both traditional and unconventional facets of the energy industry. Hey everyone, welcome back. Canada is on the brink of a transportation revolution, as it transitions to electric. With the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality, the Canadian government has set a target of selling only zero emission vehicles by 2035. This transition presents a number of challenges and opportunities. But there's one thing for certain it's an exciting time for Canada's electric vehicle industry. The demand for electric vehicles is growing exponentially in Canada, as more people are embracing the technology to reduce their carbon footprint and improve air quality. This has created a unique opportunity for automakers and entrepreneurs to bring new and innovative electric vehicle models and technology to market. Strides were made in 2022, which saw Canada's public charging installations grow by a whopping 30%. The government has committed to investing in public charging infrastructure, and private companies are also stepping up to meet the demand. The shift to electric mobility will no doubt transform Canada's energy sector, which will require a significant increase in electricity demand, and bring with it more renewable energy and innovation. Electric vehicles present an opportunity for Canada to develop a more resilient and sustainable electricity and transportation system, not to mention the untold economic benefits. So here's today's big question: There's been a lot of announcements in the past year about investments Canada is making in EV manufacturing, infrastructure, and critical minerals needed for batteries. Is it enough to make Canada a superpower in this space and meet its 2035 target? Joining us today is Emma Jarrett, an award winning investigative journalist with a focus on green energy, the electric transportation sector and politics. She worked for some of Canada's largest news outlets, including CTV, the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail. Currently, she's the executive director of Electric Autonomy Canada, Emma, so great to have you join us today. Emma, how did you first become interested in electric vehicles and clean energy? And what led you to your current role as the executive editor of electric autonomy Canada?
Emma Jarrett 03:07
So, fun fact, I know very little about cars. If you ask me what the torque or the HP or like the drag on something is, I will give you a blank stare because I just don't know. It's never been a huge interest for me. But what I do care about and what my professional and personal background is is health, environment, resources, politics, the economy.You know, I have a little bit of power generation knowledge. So all to say that EV adoption touches all of that; it actually has very little to do with cars. So I fell into this job. Actually, I was freelancing, and I was approached to freelance for electric autonomy when it first started up, and it was a really nice partnership, and it became a full time gig.
Dan Seguin 04:01
Cool. Can you give us a bit of background on Electric Autonomy, Canada?
Emma Jarrett 04:07
Sure. So the company was founded in 2019, we actually just turned four. Our founder, Nino Dakara, started the news platform because he saw that Canada was just falling behind on EV adoption compared to other countries. You know, at that point, Norway would have been, you know, mid hockey stick up to very, very high levels of adoption, and Canada just wasn't doing much. And so he identified this issue and pinpointed that one of the big bottlenecks to adoption is lack of education. There was just this dearth of information for Canada and Canadian businesses making these decisions. So that was where Electric Autonomy came. And we exist to fill that knowledge gap.
Dan Seguin 04:49
Now, what do you see as the biggest challenges facing the electric vehicle industry in Canada today? And how do you see these challenges being addressed in the coming years?
Emma Jarrett 05:02
So the EV industry always exists I think with this, like an existential crisis happening, we're building, well I'm not part of it, but the industry is building itself from the ground up almost. And making a combustion vehicle is very different from making an electric vehicle. So yes, there is an existing auto sector in Canada with lots of tier one parts and manufacturers. But essentially, you're rebuilding something in the best case scenario, and most of the time, you're just building from the ground up, particularly when it comes to batteries and building that supply chain. So, that's just an ongoing challenge, you know, imagine building a house and then multiply that by like 2 billion. And that's what, you know, the scale of what this is. So the daily acute challenge, though, I think, at this moment is supply of vehicles, they're just not enough to match the demand and the interest from the public. And that's proving incredibly frustrating for everybody from manufacturers who, you know, know that they're not providing to scale what people are looking for, and to customers on the flip side who've been waiting very long times, in some cases to get their vehicles to address them. I mean, these are growing pains, my hope is that they will work out as things become more established as more pieces of the supply chain fall into place and come up and running. But no, I mean, there are going to be some really big troubleshooting events that have to happen before everyone feels like okay, we're, we're ticking along here.
Dan Seguin 06:31
How has the COVID 19 pandemic impacted the electric vehicle market in Canada? And what changes do you anticipate in the near future?
Emma Jarrett 06:40
I hate to say supply chains because everyone has been blaming supply chains. But it was a huge blow to the auto industry in general. I mean, the early days of the pandemic, like factories were shut down for weeks and months, no one was producing anything, whether it ran on a battery, or a combustion engine. That was a massive problem for the industry. So you know, that just had to be weather really, COVID. And obviously, the government's had to step in with subsidies to keep the industries as they were, you know, variously impacted afloat, man. And there was a psychological side too, for people when you think the world is ending, and that you don't know what's going to happen next. And you're so worried about everybody getting sick, and you can't go anywhere and see anybody! Do you care about buying a car? Probably not. So, you know, we know from the numbers that, you know, purchases of vehicles went down a lot during COVID, which I think is a pretty understandable and natural reaction to the bigger world events that we're playing out. Now, the retail industrial complex is rebounding. And perhaps what we will see in the near future is people taking stock of their ability to have an impact on their health and the health of their neighbors and those around them. I don't think any of us want to live or another COVID. Not to say that vehicles are in any way responsible or impactful on COVID. But it does speak to you know, we want to live in a healthy, sustainable clean planet, and EVs are this a bad pun. But they're a vehicle to do that. They're one piece of the puzzle to help achieve a way of living that is just better for everybody.
Dan Seguin 08:20
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 08:36
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 learned 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 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 brought 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 10:06
Okay, Emma, 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 10:26
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 it rolls out the way some of the politicians are saying it will. That for the EV industry and clean tech, you know, we can go toe to toe with the US using $55 billion, which is, you know, less than a quarter of what the US 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 decarbonisation 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 11:59
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 12:13
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 ship 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 then 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 always of the opinion that some action is better than sitting there and doing nothing.
Dan Seguin 13:03
Okay. How do you think Canada's clean energy and climate policies are impacting the development and adoption of electric vehicles? And what changes would you like to see in the policy landscape?
Emma Jarrett 13:17
I think the government is sending a very clear signal, whether they're saying it outright, or they're using funding and grants and incentives that they want to de-risk EV adoption and venture into the EV landscape, whether that comes in the form of manufacturing or charging. So I think that that's quite a powerful signal to the private commercial world, everyone is still nervous about how this will go. It's not small amounts of money that companies are talking about here, if it goes sideways, it could sink them. So I think that helps to have that sense of, you know, the government saying, we're not going to abandon you, we're going to try to help where we can, but that's sort of like ledger books and dollars and cents, people are much trickier. Openness to buying an Eevee is very subjective. And you know, times that by 38 million. like every Canadian will have their own reason for buying or not buying an EV. Investments in rebates and better EV education and charging infrastructure and just making it more visible and, and more widely available is really helpful. And that is what is being done, but there's still people who want to switch. So how do you reach them? I think that there are probably much smarter people than me, you know, consumer insights and into you know, strategies there. But, you know, we may be in a position in the future where we've seen a lot of carrots being given as of late very few sticks. And there might be policies that make it really unappealing and de incentivize people to own a combustion vehicle,it might come down to that, I don't know.
Dan Seguin 14:59
Okay, Emma, follow up question here. What are other countries doing right that Canada should consider emulating or even adopting?
Emma Jarrett 15:09
Where we see the highest number of EVs being bought and adoption rates that are, you know, nearly at 100%: your Norway's, your Iceland's and Sweden's of the world. Those countries that they have in common, they're smaller than Canada, like 100%, they're way smaller. It is a different and perhaps easier task to switch a more compact size country over to EVs sooner. However, they also just have a different societal perspective than we have, like a different social conscience. Citizens of those countries tend to embrace moving in sync together for the greater good, rather than, you know, the haves doing really, really well. And the have-nots being left behind, which is what we tend and see more towards here. I think it's an age-old question. Every politician, every grassroots activist has wondered and asked themselves, you know, the question of how do we get everyone to buy into this thing that we want them to do? There is no easy answer. But I think that we've seen in history, countries that band together to do something because they just believe it's the right thing. And it will net benefit as most people tend to do better. And at the end of the day, if we don't do anything, or we don't do enough, everyone in Canada will suffer because of climate change. We already know that there are pockets of the country that are acutely suffering more than others right now. But at the end of the day, it will be a universal problem for everybody.
Dan Seguin 16:35
Now, what do you believe are the most important factors driving the transition to electric mobility in Canada?
Emma Jarrett 16:44
We always come back to a few pillars, which is, you know, education is right up there just understanding demystifying this technology. I mean, these are not like spaced hovercraft, that you need a special license to learn how to drive, they're just a car. So education is really key. Just getting people familiar with the technology, access to the vehicles to test drive is really important. Because this is technology on wheels, it's cars now or computers on wheels. So think of one of the most successful tech brands in the world, Apple, what does Apple do really well? They have stores everywhere, and you get to go in and there are tables and tables of all of their stuff. And you can hold it and feel it and play with it. And that's what needs to happen with vehicles, particularly EVs. They're new, and people are interested, but they need to test it out first, and we've seen rebates and then purchase incentives be effective as well. These vehicles are more expensive right now everyone hopes and is anticipating those costs will come down. But until they do that will make it more likely that you'll get more people into them. If you can help with the costs. Maybe not everybody needs a rate rebate, but certainly some people do.
Dan Seguin 17:54
What role do you see Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs playing in the development of electric vehicle technologies and infrastructure? And what opportunities do you see for Canadian companies in this space?
Emma Jarrett 18:11
Since I started reporting for electric autonomy, I've had the most wonderful education and what it is that's actually made in Canada. And coming into this four years ago, I had no idea that we have the auto sector that we do outside of, you know, Windsor, basically. We make cars in Windsor, but the parts and the tier one suppliers, and the tiny little bits of the vehicle that nobody ever cares about, or knows about unless they break, so many of them are made here. And then we have the IP side, which has just flourished in the last few years with excellent talent coming, you know, out of the universities or into Canada from around the world. And the ecosystem is incredibly robust. We have an example of what entirely made in Canada talent can do with the project arrow. I don't know if you're familiar with that. But the APMA the Auto Parts and Manufacturers Association spent, I think it was three years - Yeah, three years, building from the ground up, a concept vehicle that is entirely made in Canada IP. Every part, every piece of technology, every self driving - driver assist feature on it came from Canadian talent. They had hundreds and hundreds of bids from across the country for companies to participate in the car and it's an incredible body of work. And it's such a good example of what is possible coming out of Canada.
Dan Seguin 19:46
Very cool. Okay. Now, what advice do you have for individuals who are interested in transitioning to electric vehicles but are still hesitant or unsure about the technology?
Emma Jarrett 20:00
Well, I would say that there are a couple of things you can do. First is, do you know anybody with an EV? Well enough to ask them, Hey, can you take me for a drive in it or even better? Let me go around the block a few times. If you don't have anybody in your life who owns an EV then there are every society chapters all across the country, you should look one up in your community or close by our community. And they are incredibly generous. It's just a collection of people who are really passionate about EV education and one of their favorite things to do is to get people into EVs. So it's not an over asked to see if you can have a drive ins in someone's car, educate yourself on how the EV works to demystify, you know, the power train, understand the the battery that is in the vehicle is really just an extra extra large version of what's already in your phone or your computer. It's just done on a bigger scale. So I think, oh, and as well charging, definitely educate yourself on the charging of your vehicle, because that's, you know, routinely something that is a stumbling block for potential buyers is "How am I going to charge this thing." If you're, if you don't live in a detached home where you have, you know, room on your panel to put in a Level 2 charger, you're gonna have to do a bit of homework to understand how you'll navigate that, and there are lots of options and lots of resources available.
Dan Seguin 21:29
Okay Emma, how do we make electric mobility and electrification equitable, and accessible for everyone to participate in? What's needed for all Canadians to buy in?
Emma Jarrett 21:42
Well, I don't know what's in it for all Canadians to buy in, in terms of what will sway someone to buy an EV or not, what is a convincing argument for me might not be for my neighbor. But to make it equitable, I hope that charging providers are really sensitive to and mindful of where they're rolling out charging, and not just concentrating it in specific pockets where adoption is really high. But instead making sure that there's an even spread so that everyone feels like they have access to the infrastructure, they need to power their vehicles, cost of the vehicles in and of themselves is always a recurring concern. I don't know what else there is to do at this point, with certainly a federal rebate in place available to all Canadians and most provinces and territories offering some form of a rebate to add on top of the federal one, rather than waiting for the cost to come down. And from conversations with manufacturers, that's something that everyone is quite mindful of. Carmakers want to sell cars, and the better the price, the more cars they'll sell. So it's not something they're oblivious to. It's just waiting for the supply chain to solidify so that it's not as costly to make the battery which remains the most expensive part of the vehicle. We do.
Dan Seguin 22:57
Okay, another follow up question for you. I'm looking to the future of this industry and Canada's approach. Are you hopeful?
Emma Jarrett 23:05
I'm an impatient person by nature. So I would, I would always like to see it go faster. But I am hopeful that we are taking the right steps as a country. And I just hope that there are more to come that this isn't, you know, okay, we've done what we can and let the chips fall where they may, I hope that we continue to see just a rolling evolution as the temperature keeps being taken of what people need to make them comfortable switching over to a zero emission vehicle. So I am cautiously optimistic, I would say.
Dan Seguin 23:42
Okay, a personal question, Emma, if you don't mind. As an award winning journalist, given all of the stories, you've covered people you've met, and where you've been, what has been your most memorable and why?
Emma Jarrett 23:59
So in 20, what year would have been 2014, the war in Syria was really picking up steam. And I was already in Norway for a reporting stint. I was there for a few months. And at the end of it, I hopped on a flight and went to Turkey, traveled to the Turkish border of Syria, and stayed there for a week covering aspects of the conflict that I could from there. And I spoke with, you know, tons of, mostly children of varying ages, who had been evacuated from Syria to receive medical treatment in this small town called Rohanley. And that was a very formative experience for me. That was the closest I've ever been to a war, certainly very, very distressing to see people and kids lying in beds who are not much younger than me. I was, I was in my early 20s At the time, and also very inspiring to see that, you know, the doctors and the, you know, people who people who had never been in medicine before coming up with these incredible ideas to help these people who have been wounded, I ended up at a prosthetics clinic, a group of I mean, they were teenagers, they they had liked robotics when they were in school. And some of them might have had like one or two years of engineering behind them at university before the conflict broke out. And they started making prosthetics at this clinic for everybody who had lost limbs. And it was really incredible to see on many different levels, and it's always stayed with me.
Dan Seguin 25:46
Thank you for sharing this. Lastly, we always end our interviews with some rapid fire questions. I hope you're ready.
Emma Jarrett 25:56
Dan Seguin 25:57
What are you reading right now Emma?
Emma Jarrett 25:59
I'm just about to start a new book by Tamara Cherry who is a journalist on trauma informed reporting. So it's telling the story in a way that's not re victimizing the people you're interviewing. Very excited about, I've heard great things.
Dan Seguin 26:15
Okay, um, what would you name your boa if you had one?
Emma Jarrett 26:19
I do not have a boat. I tend to get quite seasick. So I think I would have to go with like, the Hurley Girly or Hold the Waves, like something a bit tongue and cheek, but definitely I would much prefer that the boat either be on dry land, or very firmly tied to the dock.
Dan Seguin 26:37
Who is someone you admire?
Emma Jarrett 26:41
I don't have any public figures that jumped to mind. But I'm going to be very trite and say that I have so many wonderful people in my life that just bring me so much joy and challenge me and who have done amazing things in their own lives. And I just admire my friends, my family, my colleagues, that I'm just incredibly lucky that way.
Dan Seguin 27:04
Nice. What is the closest thing to real magic that you've witnessed?
Emma Jarrett 27:10
Probably my pregnancies.
Dan Seguin 27:12
What has been the biggest challenge to you personally, since the pandemic began?
Emma Jarrett 27:18
I was very lucky during the pandemic. I don't think a lot of people can say that they rode it out as well as I did in terms of, you know, getting to keep going with my everyday life. I've worked from home anyway, so it didn't hit me in the same way that it hit other people. But I think it was hard just being out and about and seeing the joylessness and the fear on everybody's faces all the time. You know, everyone is in masks, of course, and everyone's eyes had that same look of just really, really distressed - that was hard.
Dan Seguin 27:52
Okay, We've all been watching a lot more Netflix and TV lately. What's your favorite movie or show?
Emma Jarrett 28:00
I will usually always have Downton Abbey on in the background. I'm just a sucker for slow moving British TV with lots of horseback riding.
Dan Seguin 28:09
Now, lastly, what is exciting you Emma about your industry right now?
Emma Jarrett 28:16
It's exciting to watch history unfold in real time. I have this sense that, you know, in 20 years, we're all going to look back on this and think wow, that was a really cool thing to live through. And I'm fortunate because my job allows me basically to keep a diary - terrible diaries to my personal life but through reporting you know, I have story after story of my own and my colleagues just chronicling this massive societal transition, and I think it's going to be the neatest Time Capsule down the road.
Dan Seguin 28:49
Well, Emma this is it. We've reached the end of another episode of the think energy podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today. Now if our listeners want to learn more about you, how can they connect?
Emma Jarrett 29:03
I am on most social medias that happened before 2020. I do not understand Tik Tok. So please don't look for me there. But Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Electric Autonomy website. I'm easy to reach on all those platforms.
Dan Seguin 29:22
Again, thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you had a lot of fun. Cheers.
Emma Jarrett 29:28
It did. Thank you.
Dan Seguin 29:30
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 thinkenergypodcast.com. I hope you'll join us again next time as we spark even more conversations about the energy of tomorrow.