Canada must see a complete transformation of its passenger vehicle market to hit Ottawa’s emissions targets, says a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute.
To achieve these targets, zero-emission vehicles must make up about 75 per cent of passenger vehicle sales by 2030. By comparison, in 2020 just 3.5 per cent of sales were zero-emission vehicles.
The report Driving Ambitions: The Implications of Decarbonizing the Transportation Sector by 2030, examines the federal government’s December 2020 climate plan. Calculating the projected reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from Canada’s transportation sector, the report finds that about 7.7 million zero-emission passenger vehicles would need to be on the road in 2030 – equivalent to a 30 per cent share of the total vehicle stock.
The federal government’s plan projects a reduction of 213 megatonnes (MT) of greenhouse gas emissions – or 30 per cent of 2018 nationwide GHGs – by 2030. The plan projects GHGs from transportation to fall by 35 MT from 186 MT in 2018 to 151 MT by 2030.
“Understanding the practical implications of transportation emissions goals will support policymakers in considering the trade-offs involved in achieving those goals,” say authors Joel Balyk, Brian Livingston, Sara Hastings-Simon and Grant Bishop.
This report focuses on passenger and freight transportation, and the practical implications of achieving this projected reduction translates to a 41 per cent reduction in average GHGs per passenger vehicle over the next decade.
The authors provide an example scenario which argues hitting the targets would be possible under several conditions:
- An increase in the blending of biofuels;
- A 2.5 per cent annual improvement in the efficiency of internal combustion engine vehicles;
- ZEVs accounting for a roughly 30 per cent share of the total vehicle stock. This will require the annual share of ZEV sales to rise from about 3.5 per cent to 70-75 per cent by 2030 – which corresponds with the federal government’s recently updated mandatory ZEV sales target of 100 per cent of all passenger vehicles in 2035.
- Significant GHG reductions from transportation require either decreases in driving or the replacement of older vehicles with more efficient, lower emission technology. The rate of turnover of the current vehicle fleet is a significant determinant of what reductions are feasible by 2030.
If recent trends in vehicle sales (i.e., a shift from cars to larger passenger light trucks) persist, greater efficiency improvements or higher ZEV penetration would be required.
The federal plan’s projected reductions would also require a roughly 18 per cent reduction in the average emission intensity of freight trucks by 2030, according to the report. Such a reduction will require either improvements in vehicle efficiency, electrification or adaptation of hydrogen fuel cell technology for freight transport, as well as biofuel blending.