Electric vehicles help Ontario go green

By Maura Forrest

June 4, 2015

Drivers can cut their greenhouse gas emissions by up to 95 per cent if they switch to electric vehicles, according to a new report. If they live in Ontario, that is.

The study from Plug’n Drive found there are already 3,825 electric vehicles on Ontario’s roads, with the potential to reduce the province’s gasoline consumption by up to 5.8 million litres each year.

The report calculated how emissions could be reduced further, depending on how the sale of electric vehicles changes from year to year. The most optimistic scenario, involving a 100 per cent annual growth in sales through 2020, would lead to avoided emissions of 1.54 megatonnes by 2020 and 119 megatonnes by 2050.

The authors believe more electric-vehicle sales can help Ontario reach its target of an emissions cut of 15 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050. Currently, transportation accounts for 34 per cent of the province’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“EVs can play a key part in helping Ontario reduce its dependence on oil,” according to a press release that accompanied the report.

However, the reason electric vehicles are so effective in Ontario has little to do with the cars’ technology and everything to do with the province’s electricity grid.

Ontario phased out most of its coal-fired power in 2013. Now, most of the grid is powered by clean energy, with 10 per cent of the province’s electricity coming from natural gas.

That means the electricity used to power Ontario’s electric vehicles is mostly clean. In other provinces, that’s not always the case. Earlier this year, for instance, new research found that electric vehicles in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia are actually more polluting than gas-powered cars, because much of the electricity in those provinces comes from coal.

Still, electric vehicles are unquestionably the greener option in other provinces. In B.C., Quebec, Manitoba, and Newfoundland, driving an electric car reduces emissions significantly.

The potential for EVs to reduce emissions is gaining momentum, as sales of the vehicles continue to grow. As of November 2014, 10,000 electric vehicles had been sold in Canada. And at least four new electric car models were expected to arrive in Canada between late 2014 and the end of 2015.

The Plug’n Drive report called for a number of policy changes in Ontario to promote the sale of electric vehicles, including a replacement for lost revenue from the gas tax, the continuation of an $8,500 purchase rebate, and the implementation of a price on carbon. Ontario has promised to unveil a carbon-pricing strategy this year. 



Photo Credit: Jack Amick