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The Canadian EV Industry Strategy

Ben Sharpe explained what it would take for Canada to lead the way towards an EV future. Photo: Electric Mobility Canada

Canada has the potential to lead the way towards and EV future.

Speaking at this year’s EV/VÉ 2020 Conference (Nov. 9-10), hosted online by Electric Mobility Canada (EMC), Ben Sharpe explained what it would take for Canada to become a global leader in the electric vehicle (EV) industry.

Sharpe, a Senior Researcher and Canada Lead with the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), based his comments on the experience the ICCT has amassed working with stakeholders in China, India, Latin America, the United States, and Europe.

“Canada, as a major auto-producing nation, has to attract as much investment as possible in order to build up the roster of vehicles that are being produced I Canada,” Sharpe explained. “This is about the economy and jobs, and not just about clean energy and transportation.”

Sharpe explained that when ICCT looks at global markets, “one of the most interesting things we’ve see internationally is that 80% of the EVs that are sold in a particular country, are made in that same country. So one of the most important things Canada can do is support domestic demand as much as possible.”

To that end, EV incentive programs are a must, as is consumer education. In addition, consumers need to have options. “We would want to assure that Canadians have the choices in terms of vehicle models,” he added. 

EV charging infrastructure

Infrastructure support is also critical. If we want EVs to become mainstream products, Sharpe argued, we need to offer consumers choices when it comes to charging networks and options. This includes multi-family units, work charging, and a robust public charging infrastructure.

Canada is uniquely positioned to take the lead as en EV-producing nation because we have both the manufacturing expertise, as well as the raw resources necessary to build EVs. We could potentially see a future where the entire supply chain is within our own borders.

Commercial EVs

While most of us think of light-duty vehicles when we think of EVs, Sharpe explained that the move towards electric commercial vehicles, especially trucks and buses, is moving ahead at a rapid pace… although he admitted that we’re still in the infancy stage here in North America.

“In 2019 there were more or less 600 units of zero emission trucks and buses sold in this market,” Sharpe explained, “which represents less than 0.1% of overall sales. So this is really just getting started.”

Nonetheless, both established manufacturing giants, as well as small local startups are charging ahead with electric commercial vehicle plans. “Startups are playing a very important role in this space,” Sharpe said. “They’re bringing products to market and pushing the legacy OEMs to bring those products to market as quickly as possible. So startups are playing a big role in driving the [EV] issue forward.”

We live in exciting times, and the commercial EV market is moving forward at a break-neck speed. “To give you an idea of how quickly things are moving ahead,” Sharpe concluded, “the minute we finished working on the report [about electric commercial vehicles], it was out of date. Things are moving very quickly in this market.”

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