According to research from the Pembina Institute, a switch to electric cargo vans in Canadian cities could result in substantial emissions reductions where transportation emissions are often higher than the national average.
Between 2016 and 2020, e-commerce sales in Canada grew by over 350 per cent and by 2030, freight emissions are expected to surpass passenger-transport emissions in Canada, largely due to increased urban delivery.
Recent figures show transportation as a high source of GHG emissions in major Canadian cities: Metro Vancouver (45 per cent); Ottawa (44 per cent); Montreal (40 per cent); Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (34 per cent); Calgary (33 per cent); and Edmonton (31 per cent).
In its new report, Making the Case for Electric Urban Delivery Fleets in the GTHA, Pembina Institute evaluated both the costs and benefits of switching to electric cargo vans by looking at a wide range of driving conditions and scenarios, specifically in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).
“This past year, we have seen just how essential the delivery of goods is, with the online shopping trend increasing since the start of the pandemic,” said Maddy Ewing, transportation analyst with Pembina Institute. “Without a shift to electric vehicles, these deliveries will contribute harmful pollutants into our cities, with associated health impacts.”
Across all 13 scenarios explored in the study, electric vehicles were found to be relatively easy to charge, cost-effective, and reduced emissions significantly in comparison to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
According to the study, all electric cargo van models currently available on the market today, as well as new models under production, are expected to satisfy the daily energy demands of urban delivery companies in the GTHA — even under the most energy-demanding scenarios.
As well, EVs are expected to result in considerable fuel cost savings in comparison to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles over the course of a year. The savings range on average from $3,800 to $4,400 per vehicle, even without the added incentive of an increased price on carbon.
The switch to electric for urban delivery would result in an annual reduction of 12 tonnes CO2e per vehicle — equivalent to taking 2.6 passenger cars off the road for one year.
“Happily, we are hearing from courier companies across the country that they are interested in replacing part of their fleets with electric vehicles, and our newest research clearly illustrates the benefits of doing so, ” said Ewing.
Pembina also produced a complimentary report called Making the Switch to Electric Urban Delivery Fleets in the GTHA, which has a step-by-step guide to help companies electrify their fleets.
Carolyn Kim, transportation director at Pembina Institute calls on all levels of government to incentivize speedier adoption of zero-emission vehicles, especially in the urban delivery sector.
“Companies can’t make the switch to EVs on their own, so as governments invest in the shift to electric vehicles, we must ensure that the freight sector is included in these plans,” said Kim.
But despite the strong environmental, health and economic argument as well as growing interest in switching to EVs from the industry, Pembina says more needs to be done to reduce barriers to electrification.
At this time, only one national courier in Canada has announced electric trucks for its fleet, which is set to launch in Vancouver.
Pembina calls on governments at all levels to enact policies such at a federal zero-emission vehicle sales standard and purchase incentives. At the civic level, cities need to start planning now for curbside management tactics and low-emission zone.
Canada’s ZEV sector employs about 10,000 workers but with a stronger national policy framework to support the ZEV economy, could grow to 1.1 million by 2040.