Electric-vehicle plan hits roadblock at minister's office
Liberal election promise to adopt electric cars stalls at the Natural Resources Department
A Liberal promise to "rapidly expand" the federal fleet of electric vehicles has stalled at Natural Resources Canada, a showcase department for green technologies.
A project to replace the minister's gas-guzzling Chrysler 300 with a plug-in electric car has been abandoned, after officials decided Ottawa doesn't have enough charging facilities.
Instead, Jim Carr's new executive vehicle will be a Toyota Rav 4 hybrid, which has lower emissions than the current car, doesn't burn gas while idling, and uses a regenerative braking system that stores energy in batteries.
"As neither NRCan nor the House of Commons currently have charging stations available on their premises, the purchase of a hybrid vehicle was the best option," said Carr's spokesman Alex Deslongchamps.
The decision ends a months-long project by the department's Office of Energy Efficiency, which is the lead agency in investigating electric-vehicle options for other federal departments as well, including National Defence, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Parks Canada.
The department's retreat to a hybrid focuses attention on one of the biggest obstacles to electric-vehicle adoption by Canadians, that is, "the lack of EV [electric vehicle] charging infrastructure at workplaces and commercial or public venues," said Beth McKechnie of Ottawa's Green Action Centre.
The Liberal Party's 2015 election platform promised to "support clean transportation by adding electric vehicle charging stations at federal parking lots, and rapidly expanding the federal fleet of electric vehicles." A Liberal government would also be an "'early adopter' of emerging green technologies."
In March, Natural Resources launched the ministerial electric-vehicle project to "demonstrate leadership" by Carr, and began investigating whether to install a charging station at the department's main parking lot on Booth Street, in mid-town Ottawa.
Officials also placed a data-recording device on the existing vehicle in April and May to measure precisely how the 2014 Chrysler 300 was being used.
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The results showed the car was being driven an average of 48 kilometres each day and was stuck idling about 19 per cent of the time. Other metrics showed Carr's official driver was conservative in accelerating and decelerating, which helps to conserve gas. Annual gas costs were estimated at $1,831.
CBC News obtained documents related to the project through the Access to Information Act.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna's executive vehicle is currently a hybrid Subaru, when she isn't using her bicycle.
On Thursday, McKenna spoke at an electric-vehicle event on Ottawa's Sparks Street, sponsored in part by Natural Resources Canada, where she said "I'm definitely getting an EV," without specifying a timeline.
Her office building in Gatineau, Que., already had a charging station when she became minister last November, though there are none currently on Parliament Hill. Asked why the delay in acquiring an electric car, she said "we had to look at all the options."
She added that re-charging has become easier in the capital, with 80 charging stations set up in Ottawa now and more to come.
Exempt from idling law
Carr's new hybrid vehicle, not yet delivered, will remove any risk of being ticketed under the City of Ottawa's 2007 anti-idling bylaw, which forbids idling for more than three minutes of every hour. Hybrids, which typically shut down their internal combustion engines at a stop, are exempt from the bylaw.
A government spokesman says Carr's existing car has never been ticketed for idling. A City of Ottawa official says only six tickets have been issued to date under the 10-year-old bylaw, though he could not identify the offenders.
There are an estimated 20,000 plug-in electric cars on Canadian roads. The Ontario government recently announced a plan to partner with the private sector to build almost 500 charging stations at public locations across the province.
Installing charging stations can range in cost from hundreds of dollars to more than $20,000 for the most advanced technology.
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