Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday August 4, 2017
Don’t be shocked by the arrival of electric cars
When future generations glance into history’s rear-view mirror, they might agree the summer of 2017 was the beginning of the end for gasoline-powered vehicles and the start of the electric-car era.
In the space of just a few weeks, Tesla’s Model 3, the company’s long-awaited mass-market electric vehicle, began rolling off the assembly line to the delight of 373,000 eager buyers who had made $1,000 deposits, while Volvo signalled all of its car models launched after 2019 will be either electric or hybrid. Just months earlier, BMW pledged it would electrify each and every one of its makes and models by 2020. British and French governments announced in July a ban on the sale of gasoline- and diesel-powered cars by 2040. Yet the shift could happen sooner, according to Dutch bank ING. It predicted all car sales in Europe would be electric vehicles in less than two decades.
Based on what’s happening this summer, the question is no longer ‘if’ electric vehicles will take over the world’s roadways but ‘when.’ And that’s good news.
Transitioning from vehicles fuelled by gasoline or diesel to ones powered by electricity is a major strategy in fighting the greenhouse gas emissions wreaking havoc with the Earth’s climate. The shift would also end the exhaust pollution that chokes big cities.
The dawn of the electric-car era also shows how industries responding to market demands can work co-operatively with governments toward a shared and desirable goal. Until now, the major roadblocks to electric car sales have been the vehicles’ cost, their limited range and lack of recharging stations. Each of these barriers is being knocked down as automakers build more affordable electric vehicles with cheaper batteries and the ability to drive farther before a recharge.
Governments are doing their part by subsidizing electric vehicles — the Ontario government offers buyers up to $14,000 — and installing recharge stations — Ontario committed to 500.
There is a long journey ahead. Only a small percentage of vehicles run on electricity. Of the nearly two million vehicles sold in Canada in 2016, only 11,000 were electric. But the change is coming fast. Governments can assist more by ensuring there are enough recharging stations and, even more important, that the electricity grid can handle the coming surge in demand.
The average electric vehicle uses a load equivalent to what an entire household does each day. While the Ontario grid can handle the increase in demand for the one million electric vehicles the government wants on the roads by 2025, local utility companies fear the system could be overloaded in urban areas where demand is especially high.
And those one million electric vehicles would represent just 12 per cent of the number of cars on Ontario’s roads. Yes, a transportation revolution is racing our way. Governments can help most by ensuring there’s enough energy to keep it running. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)