Quebec banning sale of gasoline cars in 2035

Rating: High school and post-secondary

Summary: Markham interviews Joanna Kyriazis of Clean Energy Canada about Quebec’s decision to ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars by 2035. They also discuss other jurisdictions like California and the UK that have a similar ban in place, as well as what Quebec, BC, or Ottawa might do in the future, like policies to switch the existing auto fleet to electric.

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Markham Hislop: Quebec announced on November 16, 2020, that it was going to ban the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035. Now, this isn’t new. California has done it. London has done it. There are other many other jurisdictions that have done this. This is the first one in Canada. And to talk about that, we’re going to speak with Joanna Kyriazis from Clean Energy Canada.

What’s your take on Quebec’s decision?

Joanna: I think that Quebec and BC have both been leaders when it comes to electric vehicles in Canada and a colleague put it this way: they’re in sort of a race to show who’s the more ambitious province on EVs. And Quebec has just again pulled ahead by putting in place this 2035 ban on the sale of internal combustion engine cars.

But in terms of the global landscape, you know, Quebec is fitting in nicely among a growing group of countries, states and cities that are moving in this direction. And so a couple of weeks ago we saw California announced the same timeline, the ban on the sale of gas cars by 2035.

A day, I believe, after Quebec’s announcement, we saw the UK pull up its timeline for when it would ban the sale of internal combustion engine cars; it used to be 2040 and then it was 2035, now it’s been moved up to 2030. Over 12 other countries, mostly in Europe, have made the same decision.

So they’re fitting into the trend, although certainly Quebec is a leader in Canada.

Markham Hislop: Now, this trend to make this kind of announcement started two, three years ago, and at first it was 2040. And then as you, as you mentioned, you know, the date’s getting closer and closer. The reason for that, in my opinion, is the faster than expected acceleration in battery technology and the drop in electric vehicle prices. My experts did not expect the kind of things that we’re seeing today, they expected them to occur in the late 2020s, maybe 2030.

The rapid change in technology has allowed policymakers to be more aggressive than they might otherwise have been. Would you agree with my analysis?

Joanna: Yes. I can think three major drivers of this.

One, the technology readiness is a huge one and the associated cost reductions in electric vehicles and their parts. So in the last 10 years, the cost of electric vehicle batteries has come down by 80%. That is the bulk, maybe 40% or 50% of what makes an electric vehicle expensive. And we’re expecting to see continued drops in the price of these batteries as well as continued increases of ranges. And so those two trends continue cost of these are gonna continue to come down and the range will go up, which helps to address that range anxiety.

Two, there’s a broader range of makes and models and not just within the sedan vehicle segment. We’re now seeing electric versions of SUVs and pickup trucks that are coming online mostly in the next two years. That’s huge because there’s a lot of people who need to drive an SUV or a pickup truck, or they really want to. And so they need electric options.

Three is climate policy and we know we need to do more to drive down our emissions and in Canada and in the US and various parts around the world, transportation emissions are one of the largest sources. Electric vehicles are one of the best solutions we have. And so I think governments are really doubling down on those.

Markham Hislop: I would agree with all of that. Regular readers and viewers will know that my favourite saying these days is, “Buckle up folks, the 2020s are going to be a wild ride.” The coming decade is going to be hugely disruptive. And I would not be surprised if we see governments, especially ones like DC and Quebec that even advanced it further than 2030. I might, you might see, you know, 27, 2028 and you know, or, you know, driven partly by climate policy.

Do you think that might happen or are we kind of in the date range where it’s not going to move much now?

Joanna: I think we’ll, we’ll play a bit of a wait and see approach. So when, when we hear this, or when we see these headlines banning of gas-powered cars, certainly there are people out there whose backs get up a little bit, who can’t imagine a world without gas cars.

And certainly we’re hearing those arguments from automakers. So I think what BC and Quebec will do, they both have similar policies in place. I think they’ll, they’ll wait a few years, see how easily automakers are meeting that first milestone, the 2025 targets. If the automakers are meeting it easily and selling many more EVs than they need to then I think there’ll be a bit of a regroup to see if we can up the ante and increase ambition on timeline.

Markham Hislop: There’s two other shoes that will to drop. One,  is what California has already done, which is banning diesel and gasoline in medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicles by 2045. Of course, they’re responsible for so much oil consumption, gasoline fuel consumption, and emissions that I can see governments moving that date up. And the second thing is the existing fleet. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we see incentives from governments to take some of the older vehicles out of service before their economic life is done.

Joanna: On the medium and heavy-duty side, I think you’re right. And California has made that move. And I know of about 15 other US States have signed a memorandum of understanding with California in a softer way committing to that similar trajectory. We are waiting to see what the federal government in Canada is thinking on medium and heavy-duty vehicles. It’s an area ripe for action. And I actually think it would be much less politically polarizing than the passenger car discussion because we have some of the leading manufacturers of zero-emission medium and heavy-duty vehicles. Businesses here in Canada stand to benefit if there is a growing demand for those electric buses and trucks.

The second piece that you asked about was the existing fleet. The average lifespan of a car is about 13 years in Canada. You’re a hundred percent right, we’re focusing a lot on ensuring the sale of new cars are electric, but then what does that mean for those 13 years of driving?

Maybe a scrappage-type program would be required if we want to get to a hundred percent electric existing fleet. That said, there are some emission trade-offs with getting vehicles off the road before the end of their useful life because you’re sort of wasting the emissions created during the manufacture of those vehicles. And so I think it gets a little more complicated as to really what the emission benefits are for scrappage type programs.

But certainly if the federal government is going to move forward with one, we need to make sure we’re only incentivizing the purchase of EVs and not newer internal combustion engine vehicles.

Markham Hislop: Well, I think to wrap this up, it’s fair to say that the devil’s in the details and we’ll see what the calculations, both industry and consumers and governments make going forward. But the arc of the trajectory is very clear now: we’re moving towards electrification of the transportation and, much quicker than we were before. And, and I think that has all sorts of implications for the energy landscape in Canada.

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