Reaching our net zero emissions goals will require de-carbonizing as many areas of greenhouse gas emissions as possible – including vehicle fleets.
Transitioning medium and heavy-duty vehicles away from fossil fuels will be particularly challenging. There’s a new policy primer from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce titled Transitioning to Low-Carbon Fleets in Ontario, which provides some insights in what it will take to make the move.
According to the report, emissions from freight transportation in Canada have increased more than 250% from 1990 to 2019.
Technology options include turning to electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to reduce tailpipe emissions. There is potential that hydrogen fuel cells could be used for emission-free long-haul deliveries. Another area of development is around clean fuels, including renewable natural gas and diesel.
The OCC breaks down its recommendations into four categories:
Clean energy supply
Going electric is going to require significant investments in clean baseload power. Right now, 75% of power generation in Ontario comes from nuclear and hydroelectric and we will need more overall power output to meet growing demand.
1. Prioritize procurement and financing of clean baseload electricity infrastructure projects.
2. Work towards a more flexible and streamlined regulatory framework for clean energy projects. For example, environmental and safety assessments approved by one level of government should be able to form the basis for approval by another government and for the expansion or continued operation of those sites.
3. Set supply targets and incentivize production of hydrogen, RNG, and renewable diesel, borrowing best practices from British Columbia’s Low-Carbon Fuel Standard.
Charging and refueling
Charging and refueling continue to be big barriers to clean tech adoption. While we have made significant progress in adding more charging stations, most of that is focused on consumer vehicles and are not suitable for medium and heavy-duty fleet operators.
1. Expand and incentivize investments in charging and refueling station infrastructure for low-carbon commercial fleets across major supply chain and commercial transportation routes.
2. Expand electricity distribution infrastructure across the province to support the added charging infrastructure.
3. Implement an alternative electricity rate structure for commercial EV fleet operators to incentivize time-of-use behaviours and reduce cost barriers.
4. Work with industry and post-secondary institutions to ensure Ontario’s workforce has the skills needed to build and operate low-carbon transportation infrastructure.
Clean technologies for medium- and heavy-duty vehicle classes
The electric vehicle market is developing quickly, but alternatives that may be better suited for medium and heavy-duty vehicles need investment. These include hydrogen and renewable natural gas vehicles.
1. Invest in low-carbon vehicle research and development programs at Ontario’s post-secondary institutions to support the advancement and commercialization of new technologies for medium- and heavy-duty vehicle classes.
2. Recognize RNG as a zero-emission technology solution.
3. Recognize the contribution of low-carbon intensity liquid fuels as part of the transition while low-carbon vehicle technologies advance.
The cost of purchasing low or zero-emissions fleet vehicles is a major barrier for businesses.
Consider adopting a low-carbon vehicle incentive program for commercial fleets to complement the federal iMHZEV program and Green Freight Program, and match the incentives found in British Columbia and Quebec.
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