Transportation is a critical sector for climate action. It accounts for one-third of Ontario’s total carbon emissions and it is one of just two sectors that has seen emissions increase rather than decrease in recent years. Changing how we fuel our vehicles is essential to reaching net-zero carbon emissions.
Switching from conventional vehicles with gasoline- or diesel-powered internal combustion engines to electric vehicles (EVs) is one of the most effective actions Ontario can take. It is especially beneficial in Ontario because the province already has one of the cleanest electricity systems in the world.
Given the urgency of the climate crisis, governments have a key role to play in transitioning to an electrified transportation system as quickly as possible. In Ontario, the government should:
- Continue to build out a robust EV charging network in partnership with initiatives like the Ivy network of fast charging stations, as well as local governments and electric utilities that can set requirements for charging infrastructure on streets and in parking lots. EV drivers need to know that they can drive anywhere without fear of running out of battery before finding their next charging station.
- Provide upfront financial incentives for middle income households to buy an EV. The upfront cost of an EV can be higher than a gas-powered car but operating an EV will be cheaper over the car’s lifetime, and getting more new EVs on the road now will create a large used EV market that will bring down entry-level prices even further. Ontario should also join British Columbia in providing a $500 rebate to anyone trading in a gas-powered vehicle for an EV.
- Mandate EV sales as they do in Quebec and British Columbia. With more people than ever are looking to buy EVs, Ontario has some of the longest wait times between ordering an EV and receiving it. Provinces that mandate a minimum percentage of EV sales compared to gas-powered vehicles see shorter wait times.
Public transportation has always been an important part of reducing transportation sector emissions. Even a half-full bus produces 33% less emissions compared to the same number of people driving single-occupant, gas-powered cars. In recent years, Ontario public transit agencies, including the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), have begun introducing electric buses to their fleets. It is essential for Ontario to continue to support this transition through funding for local public transit agencies and encouraging partnerships like PowerON, which involves Ontario Power Generation, Toronto Hydro and TTC working together to ensure there is adequate energy infrastructure available to power electric TTC buses.
Ontario’s biggest challenge as the transportation sector continues to be electrified will be meeting the increased need for electricity while keeping that electricity at least as clean as it is today. The federal government has a target of transitioning 6.6 million of Ontario’s current 8.7 million registered motor vehicles from gas to electric by 2042. Those 6.6 million EVs will require 24.2 TWh of electricity each year, which is about the same amount of electricity that the entire Pickering Nuclear Generating Station produces over the course of a year. The good news is that most EVs will be charged overnight, when Ontario typically uses the least amount of energy. Though Ontario will need much more electricity in the coming decades than it has today, incentivizing charging at hours with the lowest overall energy needs can reduce the overall need for new electricity.