Electric vehicle adoption needs all three legs of a three-legged stool: drivers, infrastructure, and cars. Drivers need incentives, and the charging infrastructure needs to be in place. The third leg is the cars—there must be a good selection of electric vehicles, at acceptable price points and meeting the varied needs of consumers. It’s that third leg that this post is about.
California has been mandating sales levels for zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) since 1990. The fact that we have electric cars today owes a lot to California’s ZEV mandate.
An additional nine states have followed California’s lead. Here in Canada, the Quebec government recently announced their Transportation Electrification Action Plan which may lead to a ZEV mandate in that province.
Is it time for BC to join the party? Recently, the Climate Leadership Team recommended that BC set targets for the sales of ZEVs. Without commenting on the specifics of their proposal, here is why a “made in BC” ZEV standard is a good idea.
1. ZEVs are good for the climate, and good for air quality
Transportation is responsible for 37 per cent of emissions in BC. ZEVs are genuinely cleaner and encouraging the adoption of ZEVs will help the province meet its emissions targets.
2. Car manufacturers need to keep moving forward with ZEVs
A standard can have a very strong effect to stimulate automakers to research, develop, and market ZEVs.
3. BC consumers need access to ZEVs
A standard would increase vehicle choices for consumers in BC. Today there are about 7 models of electric cars available in BC. Under different market conditions, that number could be more like 56.
Many of those models are only available in California—because of its ZEV mandate. Cars like: Mercedes B Class ED, Volkswagen eGolf, Fiat 500e, Honda Fit EV and the Toyota RAV4 EV.
The next couple of years is going to see an explosion of new electric vehicles, like the new Chevy Bolt. If we want to see those cars in BC, we need to nudge the market a bit.
4. A ZEV standard is the right way to encourage sales
Setting a ZEV standard goes hand-in-hand with purchase incentive programs to encourage consumers to consider and buy clean vehicles. But incentives won’t do anything if there are no cars to buy or if the selection of available cars is not broad enough.
Studies conducted here in BC conclude that the adoption curve for electric vehicles is dominated by supply-side constraints, constraints that would be addressed by a ZEV mandate.
5. Having the same rules everywhere makes it easier for automakers
As noted above, the trend is for more and more jurisdictions to adopt ZEV standards. Harmonization would be beneficial to the auto makers, and alignment with the California regulations would help.