Canada Catches Up in the Race to Produce Zero-Emission Vehicles

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And last month, G.M. announced that fossil-fuel-fired engines would disappear from under the hoods of its cars by 2035.

Despite all of the attention paid to Tesla, the manufacturer that has come to define electric motoring, and the growing production of electric vehicles from other makers, electric cars are still very much a niche product. Including plug-in hybrids, they accounted for just 3.3 percent of light vehicle sales last year in Canada.

[Read: Electric Cars, Cool. But When?]

[Read: Thinking of an Electric Car? Take Your Choice]

Only three electric vehicles are currently made in Canada: a Toyota hybrid S.U.V., a hybrid from Lexus and a plug-in hybrid Chrysler minivan. None of them are completely fuel free.

Ray Tanguay, a former adviser to the Ontario and federal governments on the auto industry, told me that he thought a key to establishing a viable electric vehicle industry was focusing on things like G.M.’s delivery vans, electric buses and other kinds of commercial vehicles.

There’s a compelling economic case for making those vehicles electric quickly, he said. And things that make consumers hesitate about buying electric cars right now — like how far they can go on the highway without recharging or a relative lack of recharging stations — aren’t issues for commercial operators. Delivery vans on runs within cities aren’t likely to exceed their battery range, and large companies like Federal Express, the initial customer for G.M.’s van, can easily install chargers at their garages.

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