CCentral-Main-logo-EN-trans

Convenience Central
Join our community
extra content
Shutterstock

Toyota to add electric, plug in hybrid vehicles next year

Toyota says it will roll out two new battery- electric vehicles and one plug-in gas-electric hybrid in the U.S. this year as the parade of new EVs continues.

The company gave few specifics on the vehicles during a presentation Wednesday, but said one electric vehicle would be an SUV. Toyota said it has a goal of having 40% of its new vehicle sales be electrified by 2025 and nearly 70% by 2035. It also is developing dedicated underpinnings to be used in future electric vehicles.

Toyota broke from other automakers _ and possibly the administration of President Joe Biden _ in calling for a diversity of electrified vehicles to reduce carbon emissions, rather than putting policies in place that require those powered solely by batteries.

The company, which pioneered the gas-electric hybrid, said its research shows that plug-in hybrids can be as clean, and less costly than full battery-electric vehicles, depending on the cleanliness of electric-power generation in a particular region. Also, metals such as lithium must be mined for use in batteries, and the mining process creates pollution, Toyota said.

“We believe the fastest way to lower greenhouse gases in the transportation sector is to offer drivers lower carbon choices that meet their needs,” said Gill Pratt, chief scientist for Toyota.

Pratt said it doesn’t make sense to have a huge battery that can take a vehicle 300 miles (480 kilometres) when the average U.S. round-trip commute is 32 miles (52 kilometres).

“You end up carrying around a lot of extra battery mass,” he said.

Its best to have a diversity of solutions like Toyota offers, such as full hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electric and hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles, Pratt said.

Wednesday’s announcement comes as automakers continue to roll out new electric vehicles, even though fully electric vehicles were less than 2% of U.S. new vehicle sales last year. It also comes as the Biden administration moves toward adding a half-million EV charging stations and tries to swap out much of the federal vehicle fleet with electric vehicles.

General Motors has a target of selling only battery-powered light vehicles by 2035. GM plans to spend $27 billion to develop 30 EVs by 2025, with two thirds of them being available in the U.S.

The company plans to give details about an electric Bolt small SUV on Sunday. Hyundai, Kia, Volvo and others also have plans to announce new EVs for this year.


Electric Vehicle Charging Sign Lg_112917

How Canada can capitalize on U.S. auto sector’s abrupt pivot to electric vehicles

The storied North American automotive industry, the ultimate showcase of Canada’s high-tensile trade ties with the United States, is about to navigate a dramatic hairpin turn.

But as the Big Three veer into the all- electric, autonomous era, some Canadians want to seize the moment and take the wheel.

“There’s a long shadow between the promise and the execution, but all the pieces are there,” says Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association.

“We went from a marriage on the rocks to one that both partners are committed to. It could be the best second chapter ever.”

Volpe is referring specifically to GM, which announced late last month an ambitious plan to convert its entire portfolio of vehicles to an all-electric platform by 2035.

But that decision is just part of a cascading transformation across the industry, with existential ramifications for one of the most tightly integrated cross-border manufacturing and supply-chain relationships in the world.

China is already working hard to become the “source of a new way” to power vehicles, President Joe Biden warned last week.

“We just have to step up.”

Canada has both the resources and expertise to do the same, says Volpe, whose ambitious Project Arrow concept _ a homegrown zero-emissions vehicle named for the 1950s-era Avro interceptor jet _ is designed to showcase exactly that.

“We’re going to prove to the market, we’re going to prove to the (manufacturers) around the planet, that everything that goes into your zero-emission vehicle can be made or sourced here in Canada,” he says.

“If somebody wants to bring what we did over the line and make 100,000 of them a year, I’ll hand it to them.”

GM earned the ire of Canadian auto workers in 2018 by announcing the closure of its assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont. It later resurrected the facility with a $170-million investment to retool it for autonomous vehicles.

“It was, ‘You closed Oshawa, how dare you?’ And I was one of the ‘How dare you’ people,” Volpe says.

“Well, now that they’ve reopened Oshawa, you sit there and you open your eyes to the commitment that General Motors made.”

Ford, too, has entered the fray, promising $1.8 billion to retool its sprawling landmark facility in Oakville, Ont., to build EVs.

It’s a leap of faith of sorts, considering what market experts say is ongoing consumer doubt about EVs.

“Range anxiety”- the persistent fear of a depleted battery at the side of the road – remains a major concern, even though it’s less of a problem than most people think.

Consulting firm Deloitte Canada, which has been tracking automotive consumer trends for more than a decade, found three-quarters of future EV buyers it surveyed planned to charge their vehicles at home overnight.

“The difference between what is a perceived issue in a consumer’s mind and what is an actual issue is actually quite negligible,” Ryan Robinson, Deloitte’s automotive research leader, says in an interview.

“It’s still an issue, full stop, and that’s something that the industry is going to have to contend with.”

So, too, is price, especially with the end of the COVID-19 pandemic still a long way off. Deloitte’s latest survey, released last month, found 45 per cent of future buyers in Canada hope to spend less than $35,000 _ a tall order when most base electric-vehicle models hover between $40,000 and $45,000.

“You put all of that together and there’s still some major challenges that a lot of stakeholders that touch the automotive industry face,” Robinson says.

“It’s not just government, it’s not just automakers, but there are a variety of stakeholders that have a role to play in making sure that Canadians are ready to make the transition over to electric mobility.”

With protectionism no longer a dirty word in the United States and Biden promising to prioritize American workers and suppliers, the Canadian government’s job remains the same as it ever was: making sure the U.S. understands Canada’s mission-critical role in its own economic priorities.

“We’re both going to be better off on both sides of the border, as we have been in the past, if we orient ourselves toward this global competition as one force,”says Gerald Butts, vice-chairman of the political-risk consultancy Eurasia Group and a former principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“It served us extraordinarily well in the past … and I have no reason to believe it won’t serve us well in the future.”

Last month, GM announced a billion-dollar plan to build its new all-electric BrightDrop EV600 van in Ingersoll, Ont., at Canada’s first large-scale EV manufacturing plant for delivery vehicles.

That investment, Volpe says, assumes Canada will take the steps necessary to help build a homegrown battery industry out of the country’s rare-earth resources like lithium and cobalt that are waiting to be extracted in northern Ontario, Quebec and elsewhere.

Given that the EV industry is still in his infancy, the free market alone won’t be enough to ensure those resources can be extracted and developed, he says.

“General Motors made a billion-dollar bet on Canada because it’s going to assume that the Canadian government – this one or the next one – is going to commit ”to building that business.

Such an investment would pay dividends well beyond the auto sector, considering the federal Liberal government’s commitment to lowering greenhouse gas-emissions and meeting targets set out in the Paris climate accord.

“If you make investments in renewable energy and utility storage using battery technology, you can build an industry at scale that the auto industry can borrow,” Volpe says.

Major manufacturing, retail and office facilities would be able to use that technology to help “shave the peak” off Canada’s GHG emissions and achieve those targets, all the while paving the way for a self-sufficient electric-vehicle industry.

“You’d be investing in the exact same technology you’d use in a car.”

There’s one problem, says Robinson: the lithium-ion batteries on roads right now might not be where the industry ultimately lands.

“We’re not done with battery technology,” Robinson says. “What you don’t want to do is invest in a technology that is that is rapidly evolving, and could potentially become obsolete going forward.”

Fuel cells _ energy-efficient, hydrogen-powered units that work like batteries, but without the need for constant recharging _ continue to be part of the conversation, he adds.

“The amount of investment is huge, and you want to be sure that you’re making the right decision, so you don’t find yourself behind the curve just as all that capacity is coming online.”


Screen Shot 2021-02-09 at 12.58.40 PM

Circle K leads the charge for EV in tongue-and-cheek new ad

Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. and its global brand, Circle K put a fun spin on its support of elective vehicles by announcing: “Yes, Will Ferrell – Circle K loves Norway and we’re ready!”

Leading up to Superbowl Sunday on February 7, 2021, General Motors launched an electrical vehicle (EV) campaign where comedian Will Ferrell attacks Norway for being ahead when it comes to EVs. Circle K responded with its own campaign “We’re ready” with Norsemen-actress Silje Torp Færavaag and its own employees play leading roles.

The ad highlights that Circle K is ready for the future today with EV charging solutions. In fact, the company is number one for EV charging offers in Norway, which is also home to its premier global electric vehicle laboratory.

This year, Circle K plans to bring that know-how to North America.

“We are very pleased to have started our journey in Norway, where Circle K is the number one destination for EV customers. We are meeting those customers at our stores and in their homes and offices, creating a total solution for their charging needs,” Brian Hannasch, president and CEO, said in a statement. “With our great team, growing expertise, and progressive locations in Norway, we have learned so much in the last few years,  and we are excited to bring that knowledge and solutions to our global network, including North America, over the coming months and years.”

Currently, Circle K operates a high-speed charging network with more than 500 chargers on its forecourts in Norway. The chargers are a combination of company-owned and partner charging offers with Tesla and Ionity. Some of its busiest highway stations are equipped with 20 to 40 high-speed chargers.

CircleK_charging_Norway.jpeg

In downtown Oslo, Circle K says it was the first to begin replacing fuel pumps with high-speed chargers.

CircleK_homecharging_Norway.jpeg

Circle K has also expanded its offer with more than 4,200 home and workplace charge points.

“At our EV lab in Norway, our dedicated teams have gained years of experience in the most mature market for electric vehicles. We always want to offer our customers the best possible experience, and Norway provides us the perfect testing conditions for first generation EV technology including chargers, vehicles, and payment methods,” said Hans-Olav Høidahl, EVP operations Europe.  “I’m proud that Norwegians see Circle K as the leading destination for EV charging, and I look forward to expanding our network of high-speed chargers and home charging solutions outside Norway over the coming months and years.”

In the coming months, the company will start to roll-out electric vehicle charging solutions at North America locations, beginning in its Quebec and California markets, with a combination of Circle K branded chargers and partner charging solutions.

 

 


EV Charging Sign_Sm_071219

GM goes all in for EV

Company sees no room for fossil fuels in cars and light trucks beyond 2035

EV Charging Sign_Sm_071219General Motors is the latest among major automakers to announce they will cease production of petroleum burning vehicles. The company told media last week that they expect its cars, light trucks and SUVs to be zero-emission by 2035.
Last year, GM sold 2.55 million vehicles in the U.S. Of those, only 20,000 were electric vehicles (EV). In November, GM reported it would increase its sales of alternative fuel vehicles by investing $27 billion in electric and autonomous vehicles over the next five years.
Behind the move are public demand and government initiatives. For example, California Governor Gavin Newsom has said the state has plans to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucks starting in 2035. Several states, including Massachusetts, plan to follow suit. U.S. president Joe Biden has joined the chorus of voices calling for fossil fuel freedom when he announced the government would buy more than 650,000 alternative fuel vehicles for its ageing national fleet.
Here in Canada, provinces such as British Columbia and Quebec have large rebates to drive sales of alternative fuel vehicles and the federal government offers $5,000 for the purchase of EVs, hybrid cars and light trucks. In December, the Trudeau government pledged $437 million in future spending on electric vehicle charging infrastructure and zero-emission vehicle purchase incentives, building on the $480 million it has invested since 2016.
General Motors reports that market demands and government initiatives will see it allocate more than half of its capital spending and its product development team will be devoted to EV and electric-autonomous vehicle programs.

Shutterstock

Shell buys European electric car charging firm ubitricity

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Oil and gas giant Shell is buying ubitricity, a major provider of electric vehicle charging points in Europe.

Shell said Monday that it would buy a 100% stake in the Berlin-based startup, without disclosing the price.

“The move represents a further step in Shell’s efforts to support drivers as they switch to lower-carbon transport,” the company said.

The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, will give Shell ownership of the biggest public EV charging network in Britain with more than 2,700 charge points.

Ubitricity also has smaller public networks in Germany and France, and has installed over 1,500 charge points for fleet customers across Europe.

The company’s focus has been to integrate charge points into existing street infrastructure such as lamp posts, to reduce the cost of laying new power lines down streets.

Experts say easier access to charging facilities is key to the successful rollout of electric vehicles.

Shell has said it wants to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.

 


EV promo

GM charges up new unit to sell electric delivery vans, gear

The market for battery-powered delivery vehicles and equipment has so much potential that General Motors is forming a new business unit to serve it, a move that lifted the automaker’s stock to a multiyear high.

The first product for the new venture called BrightDrop will be an electric-powered wheeled pallet that will take goods from the warehouse to trucks and from trucks to destinations. Then GM will roll out a clean electric delivery van.

The pallet, named EP1, will go on sale early this year, with the EV600 van on the roads late in the year with 500 going to FedEx, the company’s first customer.

BrightDrop also will offer software and operational support for delivery businesses such as location services, battery status and remote unlocking.

But GM doesn’t intend to get into the delivery business, said Pamela Fletcher, GM’s vice-president of global innovation. “One thing we are not is a logistics company,” she said, adding that GM is working with many companies with experience in the field.

Since late 2018, Fletcher, has been in charge of monetizing GM technology by turning ideas into businesses. “We really need to leverage our electrification expertise to other industries,” she said.

Showing Wall Street’s fascination with electric vehicles, GM shares rose to their highest intraday price since the company left bankruptcy protection in 2010. Shares were up 4.9% to $47.23 in midday trading Tuesday after trading as high as $48.95.

Fletcher wouldn’t comment on whether BrightDrop products would be sold through existing GM dealerships or directly by the company. But spokesman Stuart Fowle the company is working with its independent dealers on a separate BrightDrop sales network, with details to come later.

On a webcast, Fletcher said the EP1 pallet can travel up to 3 mph, carrying up to 23 cubic feet of cargo weighing up to 200 pounds. The pallets can reduce the strain on workers but would not operate autonomously, at least to start.

They’re already being tested with FedEx, allowing workers to transport 25% more packages per day, GM said in a statement.

The EV600 van will have a range of up to 250 miles when fully charged, Fletcher said.

As BrightDrop evolves, it will offer more electric-powered products including a medium-distance vehicle that can carry multiple pallets, the company said.

GM CEO Mary Barra announced BrightDrop in a keynote address address as part of the virtual CES gadget show on Tuesday.

She said some countries have set limits on petroleum-powered delivery vehicles to fight pollution at a time when the coronavirus has brought dramatic increases in packages. “The pandemic has only accelerated those challenges as this sector became our lifeline to goods and services we could no longer access in person,” she said.

During its CES presentation, GM even showed a video a four-rotor autonomous flying Cadillac pod concept vehicle.

Fletcher said she expects BrightDrop to contribute to GM’s bottom line very quickly after its products go on sale.

Last year, Ford Motor Co., GM’s main U.S. competitor, announced plans for an electric commercial van that will go on sale late in 2021.

GM has pledged to roll out 30 new electric vehicles globally and spend $27 billion developing them by 2025. New vehicles coming out this year include the electric GMC Hummer pickup, a Chevrolet Bolt electric utility vehicle and the Cadillac Lyriq luxury SUV.

 


Electric Vehicle Charging Sign Lg_112917

Quebec to ban sale of gas powered cars by 2035

Quebec will ban the sale of new, gasoline-powered cars and SUVs by the year 2035 as part of a $6.7-billion plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Premier Francois Legault announced Monday.

Legault said the new policy will help the province meet its pledge to reduce emissions by 37.5% over 1990 levels by 2030. But the premier admitted that the new measures will only move Quebec 42% of the way to its goal. He said he hopes technological advances and added investment from Ottawa will help close the gap.

“We have a duty to the next generations,” Legault told a news conference alongside Environment Minister Benoit Charette. “As I said when I was getting sworn in as premier, I could not look my two sons in the eye if I didn’t make efforts to meet this enormous challenge that all of us on the planet have.”

Legault’s $6.7-billion plan —to be spread over five years —depends heavily on the province’s hydroelectric resources powering large swaths of the economy. More than half the funding announced Monday —about $3.6 billion —will be invested in the transportation sector, for such things as subsidies to encourage individuals and businesses to purchase electric cars, trains and taxis.

Legault dismissed criticism that electric vehicles are costly, have a limited range and can be problematic for people who live in apartments and don’t have access to a wide supply of charging stations. He said the state will continue to offer subsidies and that he expected battery technology to improve over the next 15 years.

The government’s investment will also pay for more electric charging stations and to convert buildings to electric heating, he said.

Legault said Quebec’s previous target —reducing greenhouse gases by 20% over 1990s levels by 2020 —has been missed. Data from 2015 to 2017 indicated emissions were increasing—a sign Quebec is “going in the wrong direction,” the premier said.

Legault blamed that failure on previous governments. “For the first time in Quebec,” he said, “we have a plan that is costed, both in terms of costs and impact in terms of greenhouse gas reduction.”

The Opposition quickly seized on the fact the government’s plan meets fewer than half the state’s climate goals, calling Monday’s announcement “neither realistic nor ambitious.”

“Hard to agree when only 42% of the path forward is known,” Liberal climate change critic, Carlos Leitao, wrote on Twitter. He also denounced what he said was as a lack of commitment to ensuring Quebec is carbon-neutral by 2050.

Quebec Solidaire, the second opposition party, said the government isn’t doing enough to discourage private vehicle use. The party said the state should tax the owners of SUVs to encourage them to buy cars that are smaller and pollute less.

Legault replied that he preferred incentives to punishment, while Charette said Quebec’s territory is large and people outside big cities rely on larger vehicles to move around on tough terrain.

Despite it being panned by the opposition, the plan received positive reviews from a group representing business leaders in the province. The Conseil du patronat du Quebec said in a statement the government’s plan is “ambitious” and presents “new economic opportunities tied to sustainable development.”

 


Electric Vehicle Charging Sign Lg_112917

FCA workers approve Unifor deal to retool Windsor plant for making electric vehicles

Unionized workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Canada have voted to approve a new three-year contract, Unifor said Monday.

About 78% of votes were in favour of the deal, according to the union.

The deal, which was announced last week and voted on over the weekend, will add about 2,000 new jobs by 2024, helping the company bounce back from staffing cuts over recent months.

At a news conference last week, Unifor national president Jerry Dias said a third shift was cut this summer, eliminating 1,500 positions and leaving 425 workers laid off after restructuring and retirement incentives.

“Workers who have feared plant closures and job losses in recent years can now look forward to a bright future with good jobs for years to come,” Dias said in an update Monday.

Under the new agreement, $14.4 million will be invested in its Etobicoke, Ont. plant, $50 million will be invested in its Brampton, Ont., plant, and $1.35 billion to $1.5 billion will be invested in reinventing its Windsor, Ont., plant to produce at least one electric vehicle, FCA said.

Unifor said last week it had averted a strike to reach a deal with FCA on behalf of its 8,400 unionized workers, following difficult negotiations around a pattern agreement put in place last month by Ford Motor.

After Ford’s agreement was announced, the federal and provincial governments said they would contribute millions to Ford’s electric vehicle assembly.

The new deal follows the improved benefits and matches the wages laid out in the pattern agreement, including five per cent increases to hourly rates, a $7,250 signing bonus and $4,000 inflation bonuses.

FCA also said that it is working with both governments on its electric vehicle investments – although the company did not specify if any government funding announcement is forthcoming.

Unifor’s new agreement with FCA also includes an anti-racism action plan, paid leave for domestic violence victims and acknowledgment of Pride month each June.

The union said it will enter its final round of negotiations with the last Detroit Three automaker, General Motors, this week.


Electric Vehicle Charging Sign Lg_112917

Federal government commits funding for N.L. electric vehicle charging network

The federal government is giving a funding boost for a network of electric vehicle charging stations across Newfoundland and Labrador.

Ottawa announced it would add $770,000 to the $1 million set aside by the province for a network of 28 electric vehicle chargers.

The province aims to build the stations along the Trans-Canada Highway between St. John’s and Port aux Basques, with a charging site included in Gros Morne National Park.

Construction is set to begin in September.

The project is designed to increase electric vehicle use in the province, using surplus electricity from the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam that’s set to begin powering the island during the next year.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan says electric cars are part of Canada’s plan to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.


Shutterstock

Pandemic to push back new climate targets, plastics ban, Wilkinson says

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Canada’s national environment agenda is the latest thing to be upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, as plans for both beefing up national climate targets and banning some plastics are likely to be delayed.

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told The Canadian Press this week that the government remains firmly committed to its environmental promises, which were a key part of the Liberal 2019 re-election campaign. However he acknowledged that the efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in Canada will also slow the government’s ability to move on some of its environment goals.

“We’ve continued to work on a number of elements but there are some where we’ve had to delay,” Wilkinson said.

The clean fuel standard to require fuels like gasoline and diesel to burn more cleanly is being pushed back at least several months because of COVID-19. Last month the government moved the implementation date for new standards on liquid fuels like gasoline from Jan. 1, 2022, to just sometime in 2022. The proposed regulations that were to be published this spring, are not coming now until the fall.

The standard is expected to contribute about 15% of the more than 200 million tonnes of greenhouse gases Canada committed to eliminate by 2030 under the Paris climate change agreement.

But during the election Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised Canada would go further than that and Wilkinson told the world in December that Canada’s new climate plan would be ready in time for the fall 2020 United Nations climate meetings in Scotland. That meeting, which was to be held in November, has also been a casualty of COVID-19, postponed into 2021.

Under the Paris agreement, all countries were supposed to upgrade their emissions targets this year, to bring the world more in line with what scientists say must be done to slow climate change. Thus far only seven countries have done so and Wilkinson is no longer certain Canada will produce one by the fall.

“My intention is to bring forward the updated climate plan as soon as it is reasonable to do that,” he said. “Right now we need to be focused on fighting the virus but certainly our intention and our commitment to the climate file remains very firm.”

He said the same commitment exists when it comes to single use plastics, but the virus is also intruding on that plan. In January, Environment Canada issued a draft scientific assessment confirming plastics are harmful to the environment, which was the first step towards the goal to begin banning some products. At that time, Wilkinson said the ban would absolutely begin in 2021.

But the government extended the required comment period on the scientific report by 30 days last month. It closed May 1 instead of April 1.

Wilkinson said the intention to move on a plastics ban remains but said he can’t say when.

“That is another one that has been a little bit affected by the pandemic,” said Wilkinson.

“It’s very difficult to know exactly how this is all going to sort itself out given the uncertainty of the times but we do intend to move forward on the plastics ban.”

Sarah King, head of the oceans and plastics campaign for Greenpeace Canada, said she is hopeful any delay will be minimal.

“We have been waiting for a long time to see the words and the election promises turn to action,” said King. “Obviously, a delay is problematic because every day that goes by, every week that goes by, every month that goes by, billions of pieces of plastic are entering our market. This is something that we need to urgently deal with.”