Canada’s ZEV policy roadmap could be inspired by Vancouver City

Electric Mobility Canada’s Daniel Breton examines how policies implemented by the City of Vancouver could inform Canada’s national plan

In June 2021, the Government of Canada announced a more ambitious target for the sale of 100 percent zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) by 2035. This target promotes Canada’s original target of 2040 by five years and officially aligns the country with leading North American jurisdictions Quebec and California.

At the same time, the accelerated target was announced, Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s Secretary of the Environment, also stated that Canada would adopt the strictest emission standards for vehicles in the United States, federal or state level. Wilkinson said Canada would even go so far as to look at other forms of regulation if U.S. measures are not strong enough to achieve Canada’s goals.

We have not yet seen or heard what these non-US measures might be. As noted by the government, this policy roadmap will be detailed in the coming months in consultation with industry, municipalities, non-profit organizations and other relevant stakeholders.

Takes a clue from the municipalities

There is significant expertise and innovation in Canada’s electric vehicle ecosystem (EV) so that the Government of Canada can be supported to achieve and even exceed its goals. This includes Canadian municipalities that are at the forefront globally in terms of political innovation and public infrastructure.

A number of Canadian municipalities have set equally ambitious goals for both ZEVs and climate. In January 2019, the city of Vancouver declared a climate threat, signaling a high level of concern about the climate crisis and the need for faster and coordinated action. Their climate action plan identified six “Big Movements”: a package of policies and initiatives focused on burning less fossil fuels in Vancouver and transportation; urban operations to dramatically reduce emissions, improve equity; and prioritizes public health, communities and builds a resilient city with a strong green economy.

The city plan also focuses on reducing driving by supporting people who want to get around by walking, cycling or transit.

A critical component is Big Move 3, which focuses on ZEVs. It has a clear goal that 50 percent of all miles driven on Vancouver roads will be by ZEVs by 2030 – meaning almost all new passenger cars purchased after 2030 must be ZEVs.

That’s five years faster than the federal government’s new target.

How will they do it?

To achieve their ambitious ZEV goals, Vancouver laid out a comprehensive plan to encourage shift to electric mobility. Most importantly, the goals are to make opportunities for electric mobility more accessible to all.

The plan includes: expansion of the public electricity charging network, which currently has over 350 charging points; rising electricity tax on private property; support for electric charging infrastructure for passenger fleets; and implementation of residential parking permits on the street throughout the city with a surcharge on new polluting vehicles.

This month, city staff presented a report to the Council on further progress towards “Big Move 3” targets, focusing on making charging more accessible across Vancouver in new non-residential buildings.

The actions identified in this report will support more residents and businesses as they transition from fossil fuels to electric vehicles. The updates for new construction make sense, as it is easier to make a stand EV-ready in the construction phase than it is to retrofit later.

Vancouver’s example

Vancouver has already had success with similar policies, which require that 100 percent of the housing units in new multi-unit residential buildings include electric charging infrastructure. For those who do not have charging available at home, they will benefit from an increase in EV charging in stalls in new commercial buildings at work, shopping malls, other facilities or hotel stays.

With 10.9 percent of 2020 sales of new cars in Vancouver that are ZEVs compared to eight percent in Montreal and 2.4 percent in Toronto, Vancouver leads major Canadian cities in ZEV adoption thanks to their EV policies and infrastructure.

This number will continue to rise in the coming years. As the Canadian government wants to develop its policy action plan to achieve its updated goals, we urge local and federal governments to share the experiences they have learned and their best practices. This is not only in terms of the policy itself, but the framework for setting both ambitious goals and a strong plan to get us there.

And Vancouver is certainly an inspiring example.

Daniel Breton EMC


Daniel Breton is the President and CEO of Electric Mobility Canada (EMC), a national membership-based non-profit organization dedicated solely to promoting e-mobility.

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