Calgary expects half of residents to switch to EVs

If the electric vehicle revolution is coming, the City of Calgary plans to help usher it in with infrastructure and moral support.

The city’s Electric Vehicle Strategy, which was released late last week, lays out concrete actions the city needs to take to help encourage the uptake of EVs in the city.

Eric MacNaughton, senior transportation engineer with the city and one of the authors of the report, said it was a spin-off from the city’s Climate Resilience Strategy, which council approved last June.

“It lets us detail out a bit more how we’re going to accomplish those actions and put time frames to them,” he said.

According to the report, the city expects 10 per cent of cars in Calgary to be electric by 2030. By 2050, it projects that about half of the vehicles on the road will be electric, or some form of hybrid.

The report says the city should encourage and nudge people in that direction when possible, because EV uptake will be a big factor in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in the city.

As of 2017, 34 per cent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions came from transportation. A further 39 per cent came from non-residential buildings, and residential buildings made up 26 per cent.

“Of the 34 per cent – the majority [of greenhouse gasses] are coming from people driving,” said MacNaughton. “There is a portion that comes from medium and heavy duty trucks, but the vast majority is from those passenger vehicles.”

He said in getting those emissions to go down, the shift to walking, cycling and transit will help, but the expected shift by 2050 to EVs will have four times the impact on emissions than the planned transit, walking and cycling programs expected in that same time frame.

“Given that the majority of the trips are driving[…] changing where the energy source is coming from is the biggest opportunity,” said MacNaughton.

“If we get that shift to electric vehicles, it will reduce the emissions, reduce the local air pollution, it is a huge impact in terms of reducing emissions while people are still driving.”

EV naysayers note that those vehicles still have to get their energy from somewhere, and about 89 per cent of Alberta’s electricity currently comes from fossil fuels, according to the National Energy Board.

MacNaughton said that’s fine, because Alberta is already making the switch from coal to natural gas. So EV is a technology that will get cleaner as time goes on – an advantage that won’t be available to gas and diesel vehicles.

“Even with the coal that we’ve got on the grid today, since most people tend to plug in their EVs when they get home from work, that’s when there’s peak demands on the system,” said MacNaughton. “We’re maxing out the natural gas on the system, and we’re actually importing hydro power from British Columbia – so it’s essentially a cleaner grid at that time of day.”

He notes that even today, an EV plugged into Alberta’s current electric grid only creates about half the greenhouse gasses of a conventional vehicle.

The report lists 10 actions the city is to take to meet its goals on EV adoption. The first action in the report is to partner with the private sector and other levels of government to see more charging infrastructure installed where possible.

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