Fleet Insights: Moving Forward

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Chris Hill, Supervisor, Fleet Planning for the City of Guelph. Photo Jack Kazmierski

Chris weighs in on the ever-changing EV market.

I was driving to an appointment in one of the city’s electric cars in November 2023 and stopped at a red light. An electric transit bus was in the lane beside me. I remember thinking how recently it seemed that I could not imagine this really happening. 

But now it has happened and will continue to happen. As a supporter of the transition away from fossil fuels and the pollution they create, I am dismayed to see so many postings and articles saying that electric vehicles are in decline. I suspect, although I don’t know for sure that the oil and gas industry is behind some of them. When OPEC pleads for leniency at an international climate summit, I sense those in the oil business are taking things seriously.

Valley of death

All new technologies and their products face what marketers call the valley of death. This is the point where a line graph of sales over time starts to drop. There are many reasons for this including saturation of demand by early adopters. Poor design, indifferent customer support and aggressive competition from other technologies can make the valley of death impossible to cross for some products. But when they do get across, and the curve goes up again, it’s usually up for good.

Combustion-powered vehicles are having a hard time selling too. At the end of 2023, one major Detroit automaker was advertising 15% price reductions in Southern Ontario.  With the average new vehicle selling for more than $67,000, according to Auto Trader and reported by Electric Mobility Canada, that means a price reduction of a whopping $10,000. Some electric vehicles are being discounted to “move the iron” too. That’s not a signal that they are finished as a product.  How many people do you know that can afford a $67,000 vehicle?

The Electric Drive Association recently said that battery-powered vehicle sales in the United States reached one million units in 2023 for the first time ever. That’s hardly a decline. But given that there are actually one million units available to sell, there are bound to be some that disappoint their new owners, either because they don’t fulfill the driving demands or because they are not well designed. Or, as in the case of electric bus maker Proterra, the company that made the vehicle fails.

Regulatory concerns

There have been some false postings that governments are abandoning regulations to limit the pollution that causes climate change. Governments would be unwise to do that. As automotive journalist David Booth has written, auto manufacturers hate regulations. But they hate changing regulations even more. With all of the announcements of new investments in Canada and the U.S., doing anything to have these investments cancelled would be an economic disaster.  There are general elections scheduled in both countries in 2024 and 2025 and politicians dare not put their voters at risk.

Concerns have been raised about having enough electricity to power electric vehicles. Watch Quebec. With EV sales now at 40% of the new vehicle market in some areas, there have been no reports of power supply failures because of charging batteries.

A milestone for electric vehicles has been reached on time. The Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC) has published its 3rd Canadian ZEB Database Report. It states that Canada will surpass its goal of 5,000 electric-powered transit buses in 2026, provided all of the announced purchases are delivered by then.

If you can’t find a suitable EV, at least you can take the bus.



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