Electric cars need to be rolled out wisely
Ready to plug into the electric car revolution? Having an electric vehicle parked in the driveway is one way to reduce climate pollution. And impress the neighbours. But really, we’d all be better off (and more impressive) if we took the bus or a bike.
Electric vehicles (including plug-in hybrids and all-electric) can definitely play a role in helping Toronto reduce greenhouse gas and air polluting emissions. Given Ontario’s current electricity mix, fully electric vehicles could cut emissions by 87 per cent compared to a conventional car, according to one estimate. As our electricity gets even greener -- as we phase out coal and bring on more renewable power -- this advantage will only grow.
But having commuters simply switch en masse from gasoline powered to electric powered vehicles won’t solve our climate woes. For starters, despite rapid advancements in electric vehicle technology, it will be a decade or two before a wholesale switchover to all-electric cars and trucks could even happen. We need emission reductions now – the ice caps are melting!
Second, in a city with worse traffic congestion than L.A., bumper-to-bumper electric vehicles aren’t going to add anything to our economic efficiency or quality of life. Our love affair with the private car is costly in terms of resources consumed, green spaces paved over and the energy-intensive sprawling development that it encourages.
Electric vehicles do have an important role to play in where there are fewer options for shifting to transit, telecommuting or using other transportation modes (walking, bicycling). Ramping up the use of electric vehicles in fleets -- including corporate service fleets, public works fleets, taxis and car sharing fleets -- is a good way to reduce lots of emissions since these cars get driven a lot, and often locally.
Fleets can also drive the development of supporting infrastructure, like plug-in points and two-way grid capacity because they create a concentrated demand. Toronto Atmospheric Fund has launched EV300 to accelerate uptake of electric vehicles by public and private fleets in the GTA; more information at www.FleetWise.ca
For the rest of us, getting out of our cars is the true solution to climate change, and a key to improving Toronto’s prosperity and quality of life. Cities, provinces and the federal government need to do their part by dramatically increasing support for rapid, frequent and convenient transit -- both capital and operating costs.
We need to do our part by leaving the car at home as much as possible and by encouraging the development of flexible workplaces that support telecommuting, flex hours, and other solutions that take the stress and pollution out of starting and ending the workday.