The founder of a Canadian-made, 100 per cent electric car says the federal government is blocking him from selling his cars in Canada.


Warehoused Zenn cars in St. Jerome, Que. ((CBC))

The ZENN (zero emissions, no noise) electric car is already being sold in the United States, Mexico, and Europe, where it has won awards.

The two-seater is built in St. Jerome, Que., by Toronto-based ZENN Motor Company. It is roughly the same size as the Mini-Cooper, and would sell forapproximately $14,000.

Company founder Ian Clifford says Canadians haven't heard much about the car because Ottawa won't let him sell it here.

"We're getting road blocks thrown up in front of us every attempt down the road, and it's getting to the point now where we're almost giving up on Canada," said Clifford.

The car is considered a low-speed urban vehicle with a regulated maximum speed of 40 km/h. It's designed for areas where speed limits are 50 km/h or less, such as city core or neighbourhood-type driving, said Clifford.

British Columbia is the only Canadian province to legislate this type of vehicle, he said.

The ZENN car has met all the regulatory requirements in the United States,the same regulations adopted by Transport Canada in 2000.

Transport Canada response

When asked why the cars won't be licensed in Canada, Harry Baergen, a senior regulatory enforcement engineer with Transport Canada provided the following responses to CBC News:

CBC: "[Has the ZENN car] met the regulatory requirement?"
Baergen: "They haven't met our requirements yet, no."

Baergen then says ZENN has met the requirements:

Baergen: "They've showed us that it meets requirements as an LSV (low-speed vehicle)."
CBC: "They have shown that to you?"
Baergen: "Yes."

Baergen then says the licensing regulations are under review.

"Our definition is presently being clarified because there is a little bit of a broadness in it," he said.

Founder frustrated

Clifford says he's frustrated by the federal government's position.

"Every time you have a conversation with Transport Canada it's a different story. The reality is, we meet the regulation," he said.

He says low-speed vehicles such as scooters or bicycles are already on the roads in Canada.

"Last week the prime minister said we can't meet our Kyoto protocols and every electric vehicle that's on the road, you offset six tonnes of CO2 emissions, per vehicle," said Clifford.

With the dollar on the rise and no Canadian market, Clifford says he's not sure how long his company can hold on.