Canada’s EV charging networks are growing at pace, but more is needed

Petro-Canada's national EV charging network. Photo credit Petro-Canada

Petro-Canada’s national EV charging network. Image credit: Petro-Canada

Petro-Canada and Tesla completed their national charging networks last year and a raft of charging infrastructure has been announced for completion this year and next. Here’s our round up of what’s live, what’s been announced and what may be still to come

Last June, a report from BC Hydro found that 70 per cent of British Columbians surveyed said concern over the range limitations of electric vehicles was the main reason why they wouldn’t consider purchasing one.

But is “range anxiety” still a legitimate barrier to EV ownership? The answer, thanks to Canada’s numerous rapidly expanding EV fast charging networks, increasingly seems to be no.

For prospective EV owners with long distance drives in mind, the expansion of DC fast charge networks is of the utmost importance. Fast chargers are capable of delivering full range charges in less than an hour, and sometimes in a matter of minutes. As such, a fast charger’s installation at a location effectively ensures the surrounding region is easily EV accessible.

Level 2 chargers, which typically take a few hours to fully charge an EV, are also crucial as they allow drivers to charge while at destinations, such as places of work, shopping malls, business districts and tourist attractions.

Electric vehicle sales continue to grow rapidly, nearing three per cent of total Canadian vehicle sales in 2019. As that growth continues, continued investment in and roll out of charging infrastructure will be necessary.

According to Natural Resources Canada, there are currently 11,553 EV chargers open to the public at 4,993 stations across Canada. Over 1,850 of those chargers are DC fast chargers.

A number of those chargers belong to one of several expansive charging networks announced in the past few months. Here’s a review of who’s making long distance EV travel easier than ever for Canadians.

National networks

Petro-Canada

Petro-Canada Trans-Canada EV Fast Charging Network
Petro-Canada Trans-Canada EV Fast Charging Network. Image: Petro-Canada
  • Completed 2019
  • 40 fast charging stations

Canada’s first non-proprietary, cohesive nationwide EV fast charging network came courtesy of Petro-Canada, whose Electric Highway was completed in December of 2019. The network currently boasts 40 fast charging stations between Halifax and Victoria, British Columbia. The majority of the charging stations are located along the Trans-Canada highway, allowing for relatively simple access for those crossing any large stretch of the nation. Drivers pay per minute of charge; Ontario stations currently charge a rate of $0.33 per minute.

Tesla network

  • 898 superchargers, 1,400 Level 2 chargers
  • 584 locations

In late December, Tesla also activated a series of new proprietary charging stations along the Trans-Canada Highway, several of which contained Tesla’s new ultra-fast V3 250kW chargers. Nine of these chargers are currently hosted at Canadian Tire locations, with that number set to eventually increase.

Tesla’s Canadian charging network was first established in a limited capacity between Toronto and Montreal in 2014. It now stretches from Vancouver to Halifax without any major gaps, and is absent only from the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island.

Although only Tesla drivers can take advantage of this network, they represent a rather large fraction of Canadian EV drivers – in the first nine months of 2019, 54 per cent of all battery electric vehicles (and 34 per cent of EVs) sold in Canada were Teslas.

Canadian Tire

Canadian Tire Corporation's EV Charging Map as of January 2020. Source: Canadian Tire
Canadian Tire’s EV Charging Network. Image: Canadian Tire Corporation
  • 2020-2021
  • 240 fast chargers, 55 level 2 chargers
  • 90 locations

Canadian Tire announced in January its plan to open a network of 240 fast chargers and 55 Level 2 chargers at 90 Canadian Tire retail locations across the country by the end of 2020. The network was developed in collaboration with FLO, Tesla and Electrify Canada, who will jointly supply the chargers. Although charging speeds vary by location as well as by car make, Electrify Canada’s fast chargers are currently capable of charging at 350kW, or speeds of up to 30 kilometers per minute.

Chargers are already operational at 21 Canadian Tire locations nationwide. Andrew Davies, senior vice-president, automotive, Canadian Tire Retail, has hinted that this year’s expansion is merely the beginning, saying at the network’s launch that “this is the first step in our plan past 2020”.

Both Canadian Tire and Petro-Canada’s networks received partial funding from the federal government through Natural Resource Canada’s Electric Vehicle and Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Deployment Initiative. Canadian Tire’s network received a $2.7 million investment, while Petro-Canada’s electric Highway was granted $4.6 million.

Through the NRCan program, the federal government is investing $96.4 million in electric vehicle and hydrogen charging stations across the country. A separate NRCan initiative, the Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program, is investing $130 million in the construction of chargers on streets, at workplaces and in multi-unit residential buildings between 2019 and 2024.

Electrify Canada

  • 2019-2020
  • 32 fast charger locations
Electrify Canada live and planned locations 2020
Electrify Canada live and planned locations 2020. Source: Electrify Canada

Also still in progress is the Electrify Canada network. Electrify Canada, a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group, last fall announced a commitment to install a network of 32 fast charging stations across the nation by the end of 2020. Three of these stations are currently open, including two at Canadian Tire retail locations in southern Ontario and the flagship location at Toronto Premium Outlets shopping centre in Halton Hills.

This first phase of construction will include locations only in Ontario, Québec, British Columbia, and Alberta. Following 2020, according to CEO Rob Barossa, Electrify Canada will “continue to expand mainly on routes [highways] and other locations that we see fit.” Electrify Canada is the Canadian counterpart to Electrify America, which has installed over 1,500 fast chargers across the United States since 2016.

Volkswagen also announced recently that those who purchase its e-Golf electric vehicle will receive two years of free 30-minute charging sessions from Electrify Canada stations.

Provincial progress

In addition to the cross-country networks, there are several provincially-backed and local charging networks connecting Canadian EV drivers in a number of different regions.

Electric Circuit

  • Launched 2012
  • 294 fast chargers, 2,104 Level 2 chargers
  • 1,445 locations

Quebec’s Electric Circuit, owned and operated by Hydro-Québec, currently consists of more than 2,300 charging stations. Last year, plans were announced to add at least 1,600 new fast charging stations over the next 10 years in addition to the 296 which are already operational.

B.C. Hydro EV

  • 2013-2020
  • Over 100 fast chargers
  • Over 85 locations

The provincial utility of British Columbia, the province with Canada’s highest rate of EV adoption, operates a major fast charging network. The B.C. Hydro EV network currently consists of over 70 locations with over 80 total fast chargers, mostly along major highways and in urban centres. B.C. Hydro has plans to expand their network to include over 85 locations with over 100 chargers across the province in 2020.

Accelerate Kootenays

  • Completed 2019
  • 13 fast chargers, 40 Level 2 chargers (part of the above BC Hydro network)

Peaks to Prairies

  • Completed 2019
  • 19 fast chargers, two Level 2 chargers
Peaks to Prairies Network Map. Image: ACTO
Peaks to Prairies Network Map. Image: ATCO

In Western Canada, the Peaks to Prairies program in southern Alberta and Accelerate Kootenays program in B.C. have funded the installation of 32 high-speed charging stations in areas that despite being heavily travelled, were previously underserved by pre-existing charging networks. The two programs are not networks, but rather funding initiatives which received financing by local governments, private investments, and the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. The Accelerate Kootenays stations operate in part on the BC Hydro EV network and in part on the FLO network; Peaks to Prairies operates fully on the FLO charging network.

Map of Ivy Charging Network locations in Ontario
Map of the Ivy Charging Network locations in Ontario. Image: Ivy Charging Network

Ivy Charging Network

  • Coming 2020
  • 160 fast chargers

Last month saw the official launch of the Ivy Charging Network, a joint venture between Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One which will see 160 fast chargers installed throughout Ontario by the end of 2021. One hundred of those chargers will be opened at 43 stations, mostly located in rural Ontario, by September of this year. The following year will see 30 more sites with a total of 60 fast chargers installed in urban areas including Toronto, Ottawa and Windsor.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro

Newfoundland and Labrador Trans-Canada Highway EV Fast-Charger route
Route 1 is the easternmost stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway. Map: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism
  • Coming 2020
  • 14 fast chargers

Newfoundland and Labrador has also announced plans to build 14 high speed chargers along highways in the province by the end of this year.

A more even distribution of EV charging infrastructure between urban and rural areas has been shown to increase consumer confidence in electric vehicles, and in turn, bolster rates of adoption.

Looking forward

Despite the current surge of growth in Canadian fast charging networks, there still remains much work to be done.

“Infrastructure is the biggest thing,” Peter Hatges, national sector leader, automotive at KPMG Canada, recently told BNN Bloomberg.

“That’s probably the number one thing the government can put its attention to, over incentives.”

Hatges recently authored Canada’s Automotive Future, a KPMG report examining the coming impact of electric and autonomous transport on Canada’s auto industry. The report described availability of charging infrastructure as the most significant challenge standing in the way of widespread adoption of EVs.

Indeed, as the amount of EVs on Canadian roads climbs, so too will the demand for robust and expansive charging networks. Canada has set a target of 2040 for having all new light-duty vehicle sales be zero-emission vehicles. As such, those looking to continue to build charging infrastructure networks in the next decade will have their work cut out for them.

Public sector funding will continue to be crucial to respond to this coming demand, including the aforementioned Natural Resources Canada incentive programs. In his mandate letter to Natural Resources Minister Marc Garneau last December, Prime Minister Trudeau also called for the building of 5,000 new electric vehicle chargers across Canada.

It will take years of continued leadership and financial commitment, however, to reach a future where fast charging infrastructure will support a fully electrified Canada.

Natural Resources Canada’s Electric Charging and Alternative Fuelling Stations Locator

Interactive online resource: ZERO-EMISSION TECHNOLOGY INVENTORY

The Zero-Emission Technology Inventory (ZETI) tool is an interactive online resource to establish a current and shared knowledge base for worldwide commercially available offerings of zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (MHDVs). The tool aims to provide fleets and governments with comprehensive information including regions where zero-emission brands are available for purchase, and the timeline over which additional models are expected to become available.

ZETI is a work in progress and will be continuously updated. Because ZETI is based on the best available data and might not accurately reflect the most recent model offerings, we would greatly appreciate your assistance in making this tool more comprehensive, accurate and robust. If you have feedback, please email us at info@globaldrivetozero.org. MORE

Dashing through the snow on the Tesla of snowmobiles

Montreal-based Taiga Motors has developed an electric snowmobile.

Thrashing through the snow on a 200-horsepower electric sled feels pretty good. It feels like skiing, if you happened to be skiing whilst straddling a 250-kilogram rocket.

The electric snowmobile from Montreal-based startup Taiga Motors looks like any other snowmobile to untrained eyes. Gently press your thumb onto the throttle and the machine is amiable and unintimidating, just as company co-founder Gabriel Bernatchez said it would be. It pulls away more smoothly and predictably than a typical gas-powered sled. The only noise is the sound of the tracks crunching snow. It makes this novice snowmobile rider feel confident and in control, or, at least initially.

But flick it into Sport mode, and you’d better have a firm grip on the handlebars. Give the throttle a confident jab, and the electric sled accelerates like a roof-less Tesla, with all the traction of a tank. It streaks forward through deep snow like some kind of apparition, leaving in its wake only a high-pitched killer-bee buzz and a rooster tail of fresh powder.

Its electric motor takes just 0.1 seconds to deliver full power, but you can’t physically press the thumb throttle fast enough to experience that, says Bernatchez, who is Taiga’s chief technical officer. The sled will do 0-100 km/h in around three seconds, which makes it quicker than most, maybe all, gas-powered sleds from established brands. MORE

Canadian businesses rush to plug a gap in electric-vehicle charging: Don Pittis

There’s money in pumping volts as traditional gas stations face disruption

A car at the 2020 Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto is refuelled by an Ivy Charging Network station. Like other disruptive technologies, electric charging will challenge the existing industry. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

The relatively small number of electric vehicles you see on the road today masks what many experts say is a disruptive revolution coming to the business of refuelling our vehicles.

With some claiming as many as 80 per cent of conventional gas stations could be driven out of business in 15 years, Canadian companies are at the forefront of figuring out how to profit from the coming transformation of the business model for how we get a fill-up.

And as with the effect of previous technological disruptions on such firms as Kodak or former music titan PolyGram, unexpected innovations mean there is no guarantee that established players will retain their dominant position in a market where all the rules have changed.

The increasing number of battery-powered offerings at last week’s Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto and the many more in the pipeline hint at an energy transformation fuelled by climate change and startling advances in electric-vehicle tech, meaning the recharging business is now playing catch-up.

Growing demand

Repeated studies have shown there are not enough chargers even for existing demand, said Colleen Kaiser, who researches the electrification of transport for the Smart Prosperity Institute, a Canadian think-tank studying market-friendly sustainability.

On a life-cycle basis, studies have shown electric vehicles are already cheaper than their internal combustion equivalents, and competition and better technology is beginning to push prices down.

Experts say that will inevitably push EV sales up.

“What we are starting to see is the more progressive oil and gas companies are now looking at themselves as providers of power to fuel transportation,” said Kaiser, pointing to Canadian oilsands giant Suncor, which has already begun to install electric chargers at its Petro-Canada gas stations.

Conventional gas stations may be on the way out once people recharge at home, but the global Canadian company Couche-Tard, which operates under the name Circle K outside Quebec, is a leader in exploring innovative EV strategies. (Don Pittis/CBC)

 

But as with previous technological disruptions, Kaiser said new growth in the EV-recharging business is not simply a matter of replacing gas pumps with electrical outlets. Perhaps the most significant change in the business model is that the many people who currently go to the service station for a fill-up will be able to recharge at home or at work.

As Kaiser says, if we had gas pumps at our houses, we wouldn’t be using gas stations, either.

Among the many other complications is having enough power in the right locations. A bank of EV chargers in full use demands as much power as an office building, Kaiser said, and that kind of juice might not be easily available — especially in remote areas where chargers are needed.

Even if people switch to EVs as quickly as some forecasts suggest, there will still be decades of demand for conventional fuelling stations, as existing vehicles gradually wear out and are replaced by electrics.

End of the retail fuel era

Research by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) suggests that the world faces “the end of an era in fuel retail” as gas stations begin to disappear. According to the authors’ calculations, many traditional gas stations simply won’t make enough money.

“In a market environment in which electric vehicles (EVs), autonomous vehicles and new mobility models take off rapidly, up to 80 per cent of the fuel-retail network as currently constituted may be unprofitable in about 15 years,” reads the report.

But that doesn’t mean everyone is suffering. Paradoxically, even as existing service stations face a future profit challenge, new entrants are rushing to figure out ways to make money from a shortage of electric-charging points.

Analysis of Kodak’s collapse after the arrival of digital photography helps show why business disruption by technological change can be perplexing.

For instance, Kodak did not stubbornly refuse to make digital cameras. Instead, as digital imaging took off, the advantages the company had created with massive investments in the world’s best film technology suddenly became a liability, and nimble specialists in electronics and software crowded into the digital photography space.

Experts now say something similar has happened in the automotive business, as electric engines wipe out years of competitive advantage by German carmakers in sophisticated internal combustion mechanics.

A recently installed FLO fast charger in Calgary, operated by Canadian company AddÉnergie. The company says it can’t keep up with demand. (Mike Symington/CBC)

 

Whatever the future of conventional gas stations, Travis Allan, vice-president and general counsel at the EV-charging system FLO, said that his company’s system of electric fast chargers is an expanding business.

FLO, which just announced a deal to install charging points at Canadian Tire stations across the country, is owned by the award-winning Quebec-based startup AddÉnergie.

As well as building out a charging network, the 10-year-old privately held firm — listed in one business directory as an “application software” company — makes charging hardware for home and commercial use. It is also an expert in the software needed to regulate the electricity flow and bill customers. And the company is expanding its business into the U.S., including through a recent deal with electricity giant Consolidated Edison.

While Allan agrees that EV owners will charge at home when they can, he said there are many reasons besides long journeys why people will want access to public chargers.

In urban cores with street parking, such as New York and Montreal, for example, there’s a need for street-level charging. Car-share vehicles, ride-hailing companies, plus the eventual arrival of self-driving vehicles will also contribute to commercial charger demand. SOURCE

The Norway experience

There are reports that the Quebec-based convenience store and gas station company Couche-Tard, which operates under the brand name Circle K around the world, is using its subsidiary in Norway to lead the way in global research on how to continue to profit in the new world of EV charging.

Even at existing gas stations, studies show the associated convenience stores are a bigger source of profit than fuel sales. Couche-Tard is exploring the best way to offer services to a captive audience of customers waiting for their vehicles to charge.

Another new entry into the business is the Ontario-based Ivy Charging Network, currently installing 163 chargers at more than 70 locations across the province. A private business owned jointly by Ontario Power Generation and electricity distributor Hydro One, Ivy will effectively be drumming up business for its parent companies by making it easier to use electric vehicles, said Ivy co-president Theresa Dekker.

“Ontario’s electricity system is very, very clean, and so it just makes sense to use our clean electricity in the province to help support increased adoption of electric vehicles and increase use of the product,” said Dekker.

As with other electrical utilities across Canada and around the world, the business urge to sell more product means there will be market pressure to find ways to keep pumping volts — even if conventional gas stations eventually disappear altogether.

A French automaker created an adorable, $6,600 electric city car that’s so small, you don’t need a license to drive it

Image result for A French automaker created an adorable, $6,600 electric city car that's so small, you don't need a license to drive it

Citroën Ami. Citroën

  • Citroën has announced the Ami, a tiny, all-electric “quadricycle” meant for traversing city streets.
  • The vehicle, which will be sold in Europe, is so small that you don’t need a license to drive one.
  • It has a range of 43 miles and is nearly a foot shorter than a Smart Car, making it ideal for quick trips in urban areas.
  • The Ami is also incredibly affordable; drivers can order one for roughly $6,600, lease one for $22 per month, or rent one on-demand for around $0.29 per minute, at current exchange rates.

SOURCE

Citroën’s tiny Ami electric car can be driven by 14-year olds for $22 a month

The ‘light quadricycle’ is coming to Europe this Spring

SOURCE

How Canada can turn climate change outrage into an e-vehicle opportunity

Global skills shortage around alternative-energy vehicles presents huge potential for domestic economy

Channelling the concern about climate change into ways to learn the new skills and trades associated with building e-vehicles would help tackle the problem and boost Canada’s economy. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Millions of people across the globe, from Sydney to Dhaka to Montreal, marched last fall demanding action on climate change, led by a global youth movement which paralleled the powerful social activism of the ’60s.

Yet when we consider the interest among youth in studying and learning the new skills and trades associated with building e-vehicles to help tackle factors contributing to climate change, the picture is paradoxically different.

There is a skills shortage globally for people such as electric power-train designers, battery cell engineers, and power-electronics trades for smart vehicles.

It’s a problem, but it also represents an opportunity for Canada.

The new transportation lexicon includes the term ACES – autonomous, connected, electric, and shared.

A future based on ACES requires specialized expertise in automotive engineering, battery fabrication, and chemistry for cell production, combined with computer and software design. This was highlighted at the recent World Manufacturing Forum and in its annual report, which focused on skills needed for the future of manufacturing.

Some auto manufacturers are already making huge investments in hybrid and e-vehicle plants. (General Motors)

 

The speed at which technology disrupts companies often catches management, politicians and workers by surprise. While governments haggle over carbon-neutral targets, some automotive manufacturers are already redirecting vast amounts of capital in a race to restructure and convert traditional factories to hybrid and e-vehicle plants.

Volkswagen AG, for example, has pledged $34 billion US for an all-electric car line up. Ford will significantly increase investments in electric vehicles to $11 billion by 2022, with plans to have 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its model lineup.

These companies see huge potential in the electric vehicle market. The cost of producing an e-vehicle is expected to fall below that of traditional gasoline-powered models by 2022.

From a buyer’s perspective, using electricity instead of gasoline also promises a savings of thousands of dollars over the life of the vehicle. And they will be cheaper to operate as there are fewer parts needing maintenance and repair, making them a compelling consumer choice even without subsidies.

But the shortage of new and innovative skills associated with the manufacturing opportunities of e-vehicles needs to be addressed in order to make this change happen.

And while consumer vehicles have received the majority of the attention, there is also a second opportunity for Canada. It focuses on making the public- and fleet-transportation systems cleaner and more efficient.

That’s also going to require innovative business models, and a new generation of workers and leaders who are trained in the production of such vehicles.

There’s growing demand to make public- and fleet-transportation systems cleaner and more efficient, through vehicles such as electric buses. (City of Ottawa)

 

The business of e-transportation beyond consumer vehicles is ripe for reinvention, and making the transition to a new transportation and logistics system is a key enabler for Canada’s export-oriented economy.

Let’s imagine, for example, a day when intelligent autonomous e-trucks have a priority lane on the new Gordie Howe bridge between Windsor and Detroit to make the just-in-time logistics between Canada and the U.S. more efficient and timely. Automotive parts, which sometimes cross this international border four times, will be tracked in real time and their transport will become emissions-free.

Given the benefits, it likely won’t take long for delivery companies like Canada Post or Purolator to undertake a similar electric-transportation strategy. Amazon has already taken a step towards this reality by placing an order for 100,000 delivery e-vehicles with a nascent e-truck manufacturing company called Rivian.

The question is, will Canadian companies be ready to capitalize on growing demand and meet e-vehicle supply challenges?

Worldwide, from India to Germany, manufacturing companies are already queuing up to attract new electric vehicle engineers and tradespeople.

Tata, the leading transportation company in India, is developing its own extensive internal training programs for this purpose.

Germany and RWTH Aachen University have pioneered a concept known as an “e-vehicle ramp-up factory.” Emerging electric vehicle companies developing new concepts work together with engineering students in a shared factory to produce electric vehicle prototypes.

This approach led to Deutche Post and DHL in Germany rolling out a new fleet of e-vehicles known as StreetScooters that were originally conceived at the ramp-up factory in Aachen.

A worker looks at the small electric motor that powers a Deutsche Post StreetScooter Work XL electric delivery van at the Ford car plant in Cologne, Germany. (Martin Meissner/Associated Press)

 

Clemson University in South Carolina has established a similar large prototyping facility.

These projects share the capital investment to create clean transportation solutions, and ultimately support the growth of new companies.

Initiatives like an e-vehicle ramp-up factory in Canada to help kick-start this new economic reality could provide training in new skills and help to capture the imagination of youth, enticing them to pursue jobs in e-vehicle manufacturing, production and maintenance. It would also help to get prototype production and small vehicle volumes off the ground in Canada instead of having them outsourced to China or elsewhere.

Creative training programs like this are an opportunity to build on Canada’s automotive heritage and channel the aspirational values demonstrated in the recent climate protests towards new clean and efficient transportation solutions, while building new jobs for the future. SOURCE

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The time for funding electric buses is now

I pioneered the four-day week – now it must be used to fight the climate crisis

CEO of New Zealand firm that trialled and implemented the shortened week argues fewer people in the office means fewer cars on the road

 A commuting population puts massive strain on transport and electricity. Photograph: 10’000 Hours/Getty Images

If we want to relieve the strain of a globally growing – and commuting – population, we need to rethink how and where we work. Working more flexibly – both in timing and location – could have a massive impact on transportation and electricity production, two of the main contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

How does it work? Organisations adopt a four-day working week, the daily head count in the office drops by approximately 20% and the number of cars on the road drops by at least a fifth. It’s a win-win-win scenario for employees, employers and the environment.

If the four-day week catches on in Auckland, for example, and organisations across the city cut down on their daily in-office head count by 20%, the number of cars on the road each day drops by at least a fifth, and by up to 40% if parents are routinely permitted to work five shorter days in order to do school drop-offs and pick-ups.

A 2017 report by the New Zealand Institute for Economic Research on the benefits from Auckland road decongestion means we know exactly what this decrease in traffic volume would mean for the city’s economy. Productivity could be boosted by at least NZ$1.3bn per annum (1.4% of Auckland’s GDP), the authors say if use of the road network could be optimised.

Additionally, if the average speed across the Auckland network was close to or equal to the speed limit (known as free-flow), the benefits of decongestion during weekdays were estimated at around NZ$3.5 m per day, or between NZ$1.4 and $1.9bn (between 1.5 and 2% of Auckland’s GDP). Imagine these results extrapolated for New York City or London or Buenos Aires.

The intensity of congestion and the lengthening of commutes are a byproduct of the way we work today, with billions of hours, dollars, fuel gallons and pounds of carbon dioxide expended each year in developed countries, where the term “rush hour” has been part of the lexicon for as long as anyone can remember. Even if we leave aside the climate change question and apply a pure economic lens, a widespread model of working which prioritises productivity and efficiency over a robotic adherence to working hours (which were once dictated by the sun and are now mostly arbitrary) is a no-brainer.

When we turn our minds to the welfare of the planet, the answer is just as obvious. The human resources department of UC Davis in 2018 bluntly made the environmental case for work flexibility: “Not going into work could be one of the most environmentally sustainable things you can do as an individual employee.”

In another 2018 study, researchers analysed data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labour Statistics and found households with longer work hours have significantly larger carbon footprints.

According to UC Davis, the two main contributors to US greenhouse gas emissions are transportation (29%) and electricity production (28%), with about 135 million Americans commuting to work. 50% of those workers have jobs they could do remotely some of the time, and the emissions-reduction value of those workers avoiding their normal commute on half of their usual work days is equivalent to removing 10 million cars from the road.

A flexible work arrangement programme at UC Davis has provided options for employees such as flexitime (altering the start or end times of the work day); a compressed week of fewer, longer days at work; and remote working for part of the week. Every option means skipping the commute or evading rush hour at least some of the time.

That could put a big dent in transport emissions: University of Reading researchers asked business leaders and owners how a four-day week would affect their commuting habits. When scaled up across the United Kingdom, workers estimated that they would drive 557.8m fewer miles per week if they worked fewer days.

Of course, none of this evidence matters unless our political and business decision-makers are willing to upend the status quo in service of our planet’s viability. Changing to a four-day working week won’t by itself solve the climate crisis, but combining it with other progressive policies will be part of the global climate mobilisation we indisputably need. SOURCE

 

Rideshare Drivers From Around the World Are Coming Together, With Help From a Familiar Benefactor

Photo: Damian Dovarganes (AP)

As Uber, Lyft, and lesser-known transportation companies masquerading as tech firms have gradually squeezed savings out of their contingent workforces, those same contract drivers have gotten angry and organized. The first big mass action was a global strike in May of last year, kicked off by LA’s Rideshare Drivers United (RDU).

On Thursday, many of those groups, both grassroots and union-backed, are coming together to meet in London under the auspices of the philanthropic group Open Society Foundations to found a new entity they’re calling the International Alliance of App-Based Transport Workers (IAATW).

“The rapid growth of platform companies has been built on a business model that excludes fair labor practices and perpetuates low pay for drivers. But the global reach of the companies dominating this sector also presents important opportunities for shared action among workers across borders,” Elizabeth Frantz, director of Open Society Foundations’ Fair Work portfolio, told Gizmodo over email. Attendees will span 23 counties, and include several U.S.-based heavy hitters like RDU, as well as New York’s Taxi Workers Alliance and the Philadelphia Drivers Union, and will be hosted by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain.

While ridesharing looms large in the conversation for worker rights, according to Frantz, IAATW will also include contingent security, janitors, bike couriers, and foster care contractors.

Despite the impressive list of groups intent on convening, IAATW doesn’t truly exist yet: The first order of business will be the production of a manifesto that, one assumes, will guide the operations of any future actions. Open Society Foundation, founded by billionaire George Soros and operating with a $1.2 billion budget for 2020, has thrown the clout of its name and a $130,000 grant to cover convention costs behind this effort. And as of now, however, no governance structure or policy goals have been set in stone. RDU and IWGB did not respond to a request for additional comment.

Both the current nebulous state of the group, as well its funding source, draws an immediate comparison between IAATW and Athena, the Open Society-backed coalition that made its splashy debut in the New York Times in November. A cadre of groups currently taking action against Amazon—Illinois’s Warehouse Workers for Justice, Minnesota’s Awood Center, and national policy center Good Jobs First—have thrown their names behind Athena. And while it may grow into a fearsome force, currently its broad mandate and lack of policy wins make it feel more like a holding company of loosely connected ideas. “A coalition to stop Amazon’s injustices—#spying, gentrification, #dirtyenergy #monopoly & worker abuse,” the group’s Twitter bio currently reads: all important fights, but ones that have historically remained the target of separate actions.

Even if a one-off is all IAATW amounts to, it’s a crucial way for often-atomized workers who don’t share an office or other means of direct communication to build relationships and swap strategies.

Naturally, though, the attendees have higher hopes. “In California, we are fighting to defend AB5,” Nicole Moore a member of RDU wrote in a statement to press, referencing the bitter fight over a new gig-work law in California. “But what we are learning through international organizing is that no matter where the gig giants go, they break the law at every turn. That’s why we need the IAATW—not just to share information, but to build a global strategy.” SOURCE

 

The federal government should prioritize funding for e-buses in the next budget

E-bus use is expanding across North America. Image: Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York/Flickr

Image: Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York/Flickr

If we’re going to tackle the climate crisis, we have to reduce transportation emissions. Good public transit — fast, reliable, affordable — can help by weaning us off of gasoline-burning automobiles.

Especially important to address the climate crisis is transit that runs on electricity, which could be subways, light rail or trolley and battery-powered buses.

Subways are only practical in population-dense cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Light rail is great in many settings. Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Kitchener-Waterloo have light rail, and Toronto is building a crosstown system that will massively benefit the city, especially in neighbourhoods not currently well-served by rapid transit. But one vehicle is often overlooked: the all-electric bus.

E-buses have many virtues. They can be built quickly — no small thing during the escalating climate emergency.

Bus electrification is part of an overall move towards electrifying most of our economy. David Suzuki Foundation policy analyst Tom Green’s 2019 report, “Zeroing in on Emissions,” says we need to “electrify just about everything.” He writes: “Multiple research projects have concluded that electrifying as much as possible will be a pillar of Canada’s decarbonization effort.”

Transportation is the second-largest source of Canadian greenhouse gases, eclipsed only by the oil and gas sector. In 2017 (the year with the most recent data), transportation in Canada accounted for a staggering 174 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent; oil and gas development contributed 195 million tonnes.

The emissions-reduction benefits of e-buses are considerable. Even in provinces like Alberta, where power is generated mostly by burning fossil fuels, electric buses stack up well against diesel. Clean Energy Canada, a think tank at Simon Fraser University, says: “When plugged into Edmonton’s grid, a battery-electric bus is expected to emit 38 per cent to 44 per cent less CO2 than a diesel equivalent — and as the electricity gets cleaner, so will the buses.” A 2019 David Suzuki Foundation report, “Shifting Gears,” states, “Electrification of buses would further reduce the GHG impacts of transit use.”

E-bus production can also strengthen Canada’s clean-tech sector and create jobs. Our country has a number of companies that produce vehicles for domestic and international markets. New federal funding could give these businesses — including Quebec-based Nova Bus and Winnipeg’s New Flyer Industries — an additional boost.

There could even be benefits for national unity. The buses could support manufacturers and transit riders throughout the country, demonstrate Ottawa’s commitment to ensuring all regions reach their potential and advertise the message, “This clean-air transit service supported by the Government of Canada.”

It’s something the federal government should consider seriously as it prepares this year’s federal budget.

During the election, the Liberals — who formed a minority government — pledged to make transit funding permanent (as opposed to occasional) and said this money would increase by $3 billion annually. They also said that, starting in a few years, transit investments would be for buses and rail that don’t emit carbon.

The prime minister’s mandate letter to Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna tasked her with fulfilling these promises: “Make the federal commitment to fund public transit permanent and rise with the cost of construction over time. Ensure that new federal investments in public transit are used to support zero-emission buses and rail systems starting in 2023.”

These are good policies, and we need to ensure they’re implemented — even enhanced — quickly. Scientists tell us we must reduce emissions dramatically within the decade.

To capture these opportunities and prevent electric bus manufacturing from going to the U.S., the government needs to act fast. Clean Energy Canada argues, “Canada is home to multiple North-America-leading e-bus manufacturers that, as the world moves to electrify transit, are well-positioned to capitalize — provided transit authorities and policy makers seize the opportunity.”

Some cities have already purchased e-buses, but the numbers are relatively small. Toronto just bought 60 (out of a total fleet of some 2,000 buses) and Edmonton recently ordered 25 (out of about 1,000). These are good steps, but new federal money could turbocharge them.

Ottawa plans to fund zero-emission vehicles beginning in 2023. This means the feds could pay for diesel-burning buses for another three years. In a climate crisis, that doesn’t make sense.

Canadian technology can produce high-quality electric buses (and good jobs) now. In the upcoming federal budget, let’s make cleaner, healthier public transportation a priority. SOURCE

Quebecor to electrify 1,100 vehicles, making TVA and Videotron fleets 100 per cent electric

Ambitious plan includes purchase of new electric vehicles and conversion of gasoline-powered light trucks with made-in-Quebec technology

Quebecor to electrify 1,100 vehicles, making TVA and Videotron fleets 100 per cent electric

Quebecor is electrifying its entire vehicle fleet to fight the climate crisis.

On Jan. 15, the Quebec-based media and communications company announced it had set “one of the most ambitious targets of any company in Canada,” with a plan to electrify 1,100 vehicles, 900 of which are used cable provider Videotron. This joins 35 electric cars the company already has in rotation.

Pierre Karl Péladeau, president and chief executive officer of Quebecor said it was “important” for businesses to help deter climate damage.

“This process will guarantee responsible management of Quebecor’s fleets: among other things, it will increase the useful life of our light trucks and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by switching to hydroelectricity, one of Quebec’s greatest collective natural assets,” he said.

New EVs and truck conversions

At Videotron, the company will invest more than $14 million in new electric cars and to convert its gasoline-powered light trucks to electric using technology developed by Ecotuned Automobile. It will also be purchasing electric charging stations and updating existing infrastructure. This phase of the plan has a completion date of 2024.

Pierre Karl Péladeau, President and CEO of Quebecor, France Lauzière, President and CEO of TVA Group, Jean-François Pruneau, President and CEO of Videotron, and Sarah Houde, CEO of Propulsion Québec. (CNW Group/Quebecor)

Quebecor says reaching its goals will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent, equal to one person making 85,000 one-way trips by plane from Montreal to Toronto.

Communications company TVA, another Quebecor subsidiary, is also part of the initiative. It plans to have 60 mass-market vehicles, including those used by TVA Nouvelles, to be electric within five years. It also aims to reduce the amount of vehicles needed by 10 per cent.

“The ambitious target we have set with our electrification plan demonstrates our determination to remain at the cutting edge,” said Péladeau. “The other Quebecor subsidiaries that operate vehicle fleets will also be an integral part of this electrification plan in the subsequent phases.”

In tandem with this announcement, Quebecor also announced it is becoming a member of Propulsion Québec, the province’s smart and electric transportation cluster. SOURCE

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