California started the push to phase out internal combustion vehicles in North America. Now, Canada has largely adopted the California regulatory model, as have the states of Oregon, Washington, and Vermont. In a press release this week, the government of Canada said,
Canadians have been clear: they want clean air, good jobs, and a strong economy. Since 2015, the Government of Canada has led the fight against climate change and done more than any previous government in history to build a clean economy. The proposed regulations help to reduce emissions from our transportation and are a key component of the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan, which puts Canada on a path to achieve at least a 40 percent reduction in emissions by 2030.
The government announced the proposed regulations on December 21, 2022, and will officially launch a formal 75-day consultation period upon their publication in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on December 31, 2022.
Light-duty vehicles (passenger cars, SUVs, and light trucks) account for about half of Canada’s emissions from the transportation sector. Canada’s Passenger Automobile and Light Truck Greenhouse Gas Emission Regulations have helped drive down emissions in this sector by establishing progressively more stringent greenhouse gas standards over the 2017 to 2025 model years.
The proposed regulations would supplement the emission standards by adding requirements for manufacturers and importers to meet annual ZEV sales targets. These would begin for the 2026 model year, with a requirement that at least 20 percent of new light-duty vehicles offered for sale be ZEVs, and would increase annually to at least 60 percent by 2030 and 100 percent for 2035.
Achieving Canada’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 requires ensuring that all new light-duty vehicles sold are ZEVs by 2035. Given the average age of a vehicle is 15 years, putting in place a 100 percent ZEV sales target by 2035 will help end the use of these polluting vehicles by 2050.
The regulations were informed by extensive engagements with stakeholders over the last year, and follow a phased-in approach that allows for a gradual and orderly transition to a 100 percent zero-emission future.
Canada’s policy is to align its Light-Duty Vehicle Regulations with the most stringent performance standards in North America post-2025, whether at the United States federal level or state level. That means aligning with the fleet average greenhouse gas requirements of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the ZEV sales requirement of California.
In addition to implementing ZEV regulations, Canada will continue to align with the United States’ national greenhouse gas performance standards and technical requirements to ensure an integrated North American auto manufacturing sector, so that vehicles can be manufactured and sold in either country.
The new policies do not apply to emergency vehicles and fire engines. For medium and heavy duty vehicles, Canada aims to achieve 35% electric by 2030 and increase that to 100% in certain vehicle categories by 2040.
An increasing number of US states are also adopting ZEV regulations. Ten American states have adopted the California ZEV regulations: California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. By 2026, Colorado, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Virginia, and Washington will adopt ZEV sales targets, bringing a ZEV requirement to about 40% of the US vehicle market.
“Canadians want to know that they will be able to get where they need to go and charge their zero emission vehicle in a way that fits their lifestyle or business needs,” the government announcement says. To make that happen, the government plans to invest 1.7 billion Canadian dollars in purchase subsidies. for electric passenger cars and light commercial vehicles and provide an additional 400 million Canadian dollars to construct 85,000 charging stations throughout the country by 2027. In addition, the Canada Infrastructure Bank will invest $500 million in charging infrastructure for zero emission vehicles.
Powering Electric Cars With Clean Energy
Canada has one of the cleanest electricity grids in the world, with over 83% non-emitting electricity, the government says. The country has committed to achieving a net zero electricity grid by 2035 and is actively developing a series of measures, including new Clean Electricity Regulations and complementary measures, that will ensure it phases out remaining fossil-fuel generated electricity.
Environment and Climate Change Canada does not project a major increase in electricity demand by 2035 related to the new light duty electric vehicle targets. Current data indicates that there will be an increase in electricity demand of 1.3% by 2035 and 2.2% by 2050, which is not expected to lead to significant increases in electricity prices.
California Leads The Way
Earlier this year, the California Air Resources Board promulgated new rules that will prohibit the sale of new cars, wagons, SUVs, and light duty trucks with internal combustion engines by 2035. The rules require 35% of new passenger vehicles sold by 2026 to have zero emissions. The target ratchets up to 68% by 2030.
Governor Gavin Newsom says the new rule is “one of the most significant steps to the elimination of the tailpipe as we know it. It’s ambitious, it’s innovative, it’s the action we must take if we’re serious about leaving this planet better off for future generations. California will continue to lead the revolution towards our zero emission transportation future.”
California also intends to ban diesel engines in medium and heavy duty trucks by 2045. A significant proportion of the goods America imports pass through California, where they are unloaded, shuffled, and hauled to inland distribution centers by diesel trucks. Along those transportation corridors, air quality is often so poor that the air is unsafe to breathe for long periods of time.
Other States Follow Suit
On December 19, the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission adopted rules that require all new passenger cars, trucks and SUVs sold in the state to be zero emissions by 2035. Known as Advanced Clean Cars II, the set of rules builds on regulations in place since 2005 that have laid the groundwork for the increase in automakers providing zero emission vehicles — full battery-electric, plug-in hybrid electric, or fuel cell — to the market.
“With today’s adoption of the ACC II Rule, all those living in Oregon will benefit from the cleaner air and improved public health outcomes achieved by reducing pollution from transportation. This is especially true for low-income and underrepresented communities across the state who live closest to roadways and have been most often impacted by poor air quality,” said Leah Feldon, DEQ’s interim director. “The commission’s action puts the state in a position to expand our charging infrastructure and ensure grid reliability. It also incentivizes auto manufacturers to send all electric model options to Oregon.”
Also on December 19, the Washington Department of Ecology updated its Clean Vehicles Program to require that all new light duty vehicles sold in Washington meet zero emission vehicle standards by 2035. ZEVs are defined as electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and plug-in hybrids with at least 50 miles of all electric range.
Washington is only the third state in the nation to adopt the expanded ZEV standards since an historic decision by the California Air Resources Board paved the way in August. Under a law passed by the Washington Legislature in 2020, Ecology is required to follow California’s strong emissions standards for cleaner vehicles. A further 15 states are also committed to transitioning to zero-emission transportation.
“The EV revolution has begun, and momentum will only continue to build over the coming years,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. “I’m excited to see the future unfold as more and more electric vehicles and charging infrastructure come online, battery range increases, and ZEVs transform into the most affordable and convenient option for almost everyone in Washington.”
On December 16, the Advanced Clean Cars (ACC) II and the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) rules went into effect in Vermont. Directly on the heels of California filing its rule, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources filed the rules with the Secretary of State’s office, making the rules effective date in Vermont on December 16, and delivering on one of the most significant carbon and cost-cutting measures outlined in the Vermont Climate Action Plan.
Beginning in 2025, the ACT rule will require manufacturers to produce and sell an increasing percentage of zero-emission trucks and buses annually through 20316 YUS 5, which will have far-reaching public health, environment, and economic benefits for Vermonters.
With California in the lead, the move to zero emissions vehicles will soon embrace all of Canada and 16 US states that combined account for 40% of the new car market in the United States. It can now be said the EV revolution is moving firmly ahead in North America. It’s not enough by itself to guarantee that carbon emissions in the region will fall enough to help lower average global temperatures, but it’s an important start. We have to take our victories where we find them.
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