Toronto promises to lead way for electric cars

Toronto is joining 13 of the world's largest urban centres pledging to make their cities electric car friendly.
Fourteen cities worldwide have pledged to build the infrastructure needed to support electric cars. ((Frank Augstein/Associated Press))

Toronto is joining 13 of the world's largest urban centres pledging to make their cities electric car friendly.

The 14 cities

Toronto

London

Mexico City

Bogota

Buenos Aires

Hong Kong

Chicago

Los Angeles

Copenhagen

Delhi

Houston

Sao Paolo

Seoul

Sydney

Toronto Mayor David Miller said the city is committed to working "with Toronto Hydro and the province to make sure the infrastructure is there for the charging of the vehicles."

There are plenty of gas stations for regular cars and trucks but nothing exists right now to recharge electric vehicles.

Miller says the plan — endorsed by Toronto and cities as diverse as Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Hong Kong and Los Angeles — will eventually mean charging stations conveniently located in places such as city parking lots and residential parking areas.

Miller says those recharging stations will be "crucial" to the success of the spread of the electric vehicle.

Although Toronto hasn't listed any numbers yet, the city of London has.

Mayor Boris Johnson says the British capital has committed to purchase more than 1,000 electric vehicles for its fleets and to install 25,000 charge points by 2015. It's hoped the city will be able to support 100,000 electric vehicles.

Franz Hartmann of the Toronto Environmental Alliance says it takes political will to clear the roadblocks that can make green solutions seem impractical.

"Thankfully we have cities like Toronto that are acting on climate change," he said.

Those involved with producing the electric vehicles say the biggest barrier that governments can remove is cost.

A tax rebate announced by Ontario earlier this year on purchasing an electric car kicks in on Canada Day 2010 and could reduce vehicle cost by $4,000. 

Industry analysts say the subsidies and infrastructure investment are needed to increase electric vehicle demand.

"Because without those government incentives the cost would be too high — extraordinarily high — in comparison with what the equivalent gas vehicle would cost the consumer," said Tony Faria, with the office of automobile research at the University of Windsor.