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

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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.”


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New government program funds alternative fuel infrastructure

Funding available for service stations, convenience stores and car washes

EV promoThe Government of Canada is putting more buzz into the country’s zero-emission infrastructure with a new program (launched February 2020) that puts cash in the hands of facility site developers.

Run by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), the Electric Vehicle and Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Initiative is a $182.5 million program designed to support the establishment of a coast-to-coast charging network for electric vehicles, natural gas stations along key freight corridors and stations for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles in metropolitan centres.

The program will also support the demonstration of next-generation charging technologies as well as host the development of binational (Canada and the United States) codes and standards for low-carbon vehicles and infrastructure.

The program is available to individuals and legal entities that are incorporated or registered in Canada and include both not-for-profit and for-profit organizations. These include a range of groups such as utilities, indigenous and community groups, provincial and municipal departments and agencies as well as private businesses such as service stations, convenience stores and car washes.

Eligible projects include permanent installations serving on-road vehicles that increase current capacity. Sites must be open to the public at all times for EV (Electric Vehicle) fast-chargers and as appropriate for natural gas and hydrogen refuelling stations and offer at least one payment option free of any network membership requirement.

Sites must be completed 18 months after the receipt of the Letter of Conditional Approval for EV fast chargers and two years after the receipt of the Letter of Conditional Approval for natural gas and hydrogen refuelling stations. Applicants must demonstrate at least 50% of secured funding of their share of the project costs; demonstrate that they engaged with the energy supplier where the project will be built and own the land, have access to the land for at least ten years or demonstrate that they can obtain the access to the site for at least ten years where the project will be built.

What’s available under the program? NRCan’s repayable contribution through this program will be limited to a maximum of $5 million per project. For EV fast chargers, the program will pay up to 50% of the total project costs to a maximum of $50,000 per charging unit. For natural gas and hydrogen refuelling stations, the program will pay up to 50% of the total project costs to a maximum of $1 million per refuelling station.

EV fast charger projects located in British Columbia and selected for funding under NRCan’s initiative are automatically eligible for non-repayable provincial funding. The B.C. Clean Energy Vehicle Public Fast Charging Program is funding 25% of the total project costs up to a maximum of $25,000 per EV fast chargers.

 For more information visit www.nrcan.gc.ca


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Electric vehicle options growing, but profitability challenges limit growth

Electric Vehicle Charging Sign Lg_112917Automakers are rolling out some big additions to the electric vehicle landscape this year as the market evolves, but it’s still not clear how much Canadians will be convinced to buy them.

Selection is certainly increasing. At the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto that wrapped up on the weekend, automakers were showing off more than 40 hybrid and fully-electric plug-in vehicles, while McKinsey & Co. figures around 400 fully electric models will hit the market globally by 2025, including 113 this year alone.

But analysts say that government policies are crucial to actually push companies to sell those models, since automakers otherwise don’t have enough incentive to move away from internal combustion engine vehicles.

“I think the real, key problem for them,” said James Carter, principal consultant at Toronto-based Vision Mobility, “is really because they make so much money off ICE trucks, pickups, SUVs right now, that basically, the question that they’re having to ask themselves is ‘how the hell do we get off this drug?”’

He notes that some companies have been reluctant to move to electrification, while others such as Hyundai and Kia have rolled out popular models but are not producing enough to meet demand, because profitability is a challenge for electric vehicles.

Companies risk losing ground on new technologies if they don’t move fast enough, but also need to make enough profit to make billions of dollars of investment worthwhile, said Carter.

Ford Motor Co. is one of several companies that have made big promises about moving to electric. At the Toronto show they were showing off their all-electric Mustang Mach-E with a towering display and stadium seating for visitors to watch the SUV roll silently on stage. Despite the marketing, it’s still not clear how many will be available for Canadians when they roll out near the end of the year.

The company is hoping the SUV, with upwards of 500 kilometres of range, can win over buyers looking for more space but not willing to giving up performance.

“They don’t want to lose anything in terms of fun to drive, thrilling performance, acceleration, so we do see there is a real appeal to that consumer,” said Ford Canada president Dean Stoneley.

General Motors Co., meanwhile, plans to revive its Hummer brand this year with an electric model, as part of its commitment to move heavily into the space with “no-compromise” vehicles that provide the range and space consumers want, while pushing hard on achieving cost parity between electric and gas vehicles.

If companies can bring those costs down, and more charging infrastructure is built, Canadians seem to be interested in buying. Vision Mobility partnered on a poll of 1,200 Canadians that showed 56% were either interested or very interested in full-electric vehicles, and 62%t on hybrids.

But demand is heavily influenced by policy. A recent EY report estimated that if all the incentives such as rebates, charging network investments, and emission regulations were removed, then plug-ins might see little market growth from the current roughly three per cent of sales by 2030, while policies could boost it to 30 per cent of new sales.

The International Energy Agency put out a similar estimate for Canadian plug-in sales by the end of the decade based on current policies, while noting that fewer initiatives in the U.S. means electric sales there will likely make up only 8% by 2030.

“Policies play a crucial role,” said the IEA in its global electric vehicle outlook last year.

Policies in Canada include rebates from the federal, B.C. and Quebec governments, with the two provinces also mandating that portions of sales in their provinces be plug-in vehicles. The federal government has also set a goal of selling only electric cars by 2040 (though not mandated into law), and is also helping to fund charging infrastructure.

But some automakers question the fixation on electrification, arguing that total emission reductions should be the goal and that the shift to electric should be gradual because the costs are so significant.

“We’re not rushing to fully electric,” said Jean Marc Leclerc, senior vice-president of sales and marketing at Honda Canada. “The jump to full electric is going to put a tremendous amount of strain, it already is, on the industry.”

Honda has one of the lowest fleet emission profiles among major automakers, which has made it easier for the company to support California’s stricter emission standards. Ford has also indicated it will fall in line with the tighter standards while Toyota, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have sided with U.S. President Donald Trump’s efforts to loosen emission regulations in the debate. Canadian emissions standards typically follow U.S. regulations.

Rather than push headlong into electric, Honda is instead making smaller shifts in marketing, including more clear reporting of carbon emissions for all of its models, so consumers can better see the impact.

The company might, however, change their marketing and sales strategy if they start to run up against emission standards that other automakers are already starting to hit.

“Out of necessity to hit the policy quotas, you’re going to see maybe a push from a marketing perspective to pump the sale of these vehicles,” said Leclerc.

“When we have to sell them to hit a GHG target? We may be pushing harder to say, ok, you want that hybrid.”


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Ontario Power Generation, Hydro One create Ivy electric vehicle charging network

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Two of Ontario’s biggest utilities have formed a new company to create a province-wide fast-charger network for electric vehicles.

The Ivy Charging Network is scheduled to have 160 Level-3 fast-chargers at its 73 locations throughout southern, eastern and western Ontario.

The Ivy is a limited partnership owned equally by the government-owned Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One Ltd., a publicly traded former Crown corporation that owns the province’s largest electric grid.

They say the Ivy network will be an unregulated business that can provide a new revenue stream for both companies without affecting Ontario electricity rates.

It has selected Greenlots, a member of the Shell Group, to operate and manage the electric charging network.

Natural Resources Canada provided an $8-million repayable contribution to help build the electric vehicle charging network.


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Feds’ electric car rebate uses nearly half its three year budget in eight months

Transport Minister Marc Garneau is thinking about expanding the government’s rebate program for people who buy electric vehicles after eager car-buyers gobbled up nearly half the funds in just eight months.

Garneau launched the incentive payments last May, offering up to $5,000 off the price of buying new electric and hybrid passenger vehicles to try and bring their price tags closer to those on similargas models.

Ottawa funded the program with $300 million, on a first-come, first-served basis, over the next three years.

As of Jan. 19, Transport Canada reports that more than $134 million in rebates have already been issued to 33,000 Canadians. At that rate of uptake, the funds will be entirely gone before the end of this year.

“It’s very encouraging to see how many people are now thinking about and actually going ahead and buying (zero-emission vehicles),” Garneau said outside the House of Commons Monday afternoon.

While the government expected the program to be popular, the briefing book prepared for Garneau after he was reinstated as the transport minister after the fall federal election, says “the program has induced more new sales than projected.”

According to Transport Canada, overall electric vehicle sales jumped 32% after the rebates were launched, compared to the same period the year before. In 2019, electric cars made up three% of all vehicle sales, up from two% in 2018.

That is still a long way from the goals the federal Liberals set last year to have electric cars make up 10% of all light-duty vehicle sales by 2025, 30% by 2030 and 100% by 2040. It is a significant part of Canada’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, with light-duty vehicles emitting 12% of all emissions in Canada in 2017.

Garneau noted his mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instructs him to do more to meet those quotas, and he said looking at doing more with rebates is among the possibilities, including extending them to used cars as well.

“I’m certainly working very hard in that direction,” he said, though he wouldn’t speculate about the specifics about what an expanded program would look like. It’s likely any expansion would be included in the next federal budget.

Cara Clairman, CEO of the non-profit electric vehicle advocacy group Plug’n Drive, said a 2017 study by her organization found price to be the main deterrent for consumers when it comes to buying an electric car, so incentives are definitely helpful.

“There are people buying electric vehicles without them but definitely it helps,” she said.

She said a program in Ontario to offer $1,000 incentives to buy used electric cars spurred the purchase of more than 300 used electric cars since it launched in April. That program, run by Plug’n Drive with funding from the private M.H. Brigham Foundation, is expanding next month to add an additional $1,000 incentive to not just buy a used electric car but to scrap a gas-powered vehicle in the process. The scrapped vehicles will be disposed of by the Automotive Recyclers of Canada.

Canadian electric vehicle sales are still heavily concentrated in Quebec and British Columbia, which offer provincial rebates on top of the federal rebate. B.C. drivers can get up to $3,000 more back from the provincial government, and Quebec drivers can get up to $8,000 on top of the federal incentive.

Electric Mobility Canada reported late last year that 75% of all electric cars sold in Canada were purchased in B.C. (29%) and Quebec (46%.) Twenty% were bought in Ontario, leaving the remaining seven provinces with just five% of all the sales.

Ontario had a rebate program until it was scrapped by the new Tory government in 2018, leading to a significant drop in electric car purchases in that province. Electric Mobility Canada says the sale of electric cars in Ontario fell 44% in the third quarter of 2019, compared to that period in 2018.

 


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Charging forward

It just got easier to reduce motorists’ cross country carbon footprints. Last month Suncor brand Petro-Canada completed its national (B.C. to Nova Scotia) electric vehicle (EV) network.

With more than 50 sites located from the Rockies to the Atlantic region, each location features DC fast chargers with both CHAdeMO and CCS/SAE connectors supporting a wide range of vehicles. The chargers can provide up to a 200-kilowatt charge; enough to deliver an 80% fill to most EVs in less than 30 minutes. Suncor worked with the Government of Canada that anted up $4.6 million to assist the project.

 With more than 100,000 electric vehicles on the road in Canada and an average of 4,000 EVs added each month, we know that this is an important step in meeting the current and future driving needs of Canadians,” says Suncor President and CEO Mark Little speaking about the company’s Canadas Electric Highway initiative.We want to be part of the total solution to meet energy demand and reduce the carbon footprint of the transportation system.”

Canada’s Electric Highway adds to the infrastructure already implemented or planned by major auto manufacturers, such as Tesla and VW.

Unknown-1For example, Electrify Canada, a  subsidiary of Volkswagen Group, has broken ground on its new national EV fast-charging network with the construction of its first location near Toronto in the Halton Hills area. The company is also partnering with Canadian Tire to create 20 EV sites to complement the retailer’s existing charging network that was developed in conjunction with FLO EV.

VW’s EV station can support charging between 50 and 350 kW. Built by ClearBlue Technologies of Toronto, plans will see as many as 32 locations constructed over the coming months in Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia. 

images-1All will sport CCS and CHAdeMO charging ports that are compatible with almost all models of EVs. Tesla uses its own proprietary charger, but offers kits to connect their cars to these kinds of stations. Currently, Tesla offers 64 active chargers in Canada, with 23 under construction and 11 in the approval phase. This compares to almost 700 in the US.

According to Robert Barrosa, COO of Electrify Canada, the Halton Hills site is the first step toward building out EV charging infrastructure that will make low carbon electric vehicles more practical for buyers.

With new membership plans, competitive pricing and a mobile app that makes charging with us easier than ever, we are confident that a growing number of consumers will consider making their next vehicle purchase an EV,” says Barrosa.

 Volkswagen’s Electrify Canada station includes four charging stands that use cooled-cable technology to enable fast charging, with room to build more as demand ramps upwardChargers will be intuitive, as well as informative, with 15-inch touch screen displays and credit card readers. To make things even easier Electrify Canada will be launching an app that will allow users to manage the charging session from their mobile device. App features include a station locator, payment function, and session tracking capability. Chargers are up to eight feet high to provide easier vehicle charge port access. 

Currently, Canada has about 95,000 electric vehicles (battery and battery/hybrid) and some 6000 EV charging sites with the majority in Quebec, B.C. and Ontario.


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Petro-Canada completes Canada’s Electric Highway

Milton bannerPetro-Canada, a Suncor business, has completed its coast-to-coast network of electric vehicle (EV) fast chargers. With locations from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, EV drivers will now be able to travel across the country with access to a fast charge network.

“With more than 100,000 electric vehicles on the road in Canada and an average of 4,000 EVs added each month, we know that this is an important step in meeting the current and future driving needs of Canadians,” Mark Little, president and chief executive officer, Suncor, said in a release. “We want to be part of the total solution to meet energy demand and reduce the carbon footprint of the transportation system. Canada’s Electric Highway is one of the ways we are able to support the total solution.”

spark-img-3From Victoria, B.C. to Stewiacke, N.S., EV drivers can now charge up at locations along the Trans-Canada highway. With more than 50 sites located in small towns and big cities from the Rockies to the Maritimes, each site features DC fast chargers with both CHAdeMO and CCS/SAE connectors, which support a broad selection of vehicles. The chargers can provide up to a 200 kilowatt charge – enough to provide an 80% charge to most EVs in less than 30 minutes. The units are also capable of 350 kilowatt charging with future upgrades.

In a statement, the company said: “The landscape of fuelling is changing – consumers are looking for choices for low carbon fuel alternatives. Suncor and Petro-Canada will continue to work with governments at all levels to support the transition to a low carbon economy and to provide Canadians with choices for fuel.”

Canada’s Electric Highway is supported in part through $4.6 million in funding from the Government of Canada’s Electric Vehicle and Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Deployment Initiative.

“Zero emission vehicles are critical to our clean energy future and to combatting climate change. Our government is supporting initiatives like Petro-Canada’s coast-to-coast network of EV fast chargers; putting more electric vehicles on our roads, reducing pollution and creating stronger and more sustainable communities,” said Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O’Regan.

 

Petro-Canada operates more than 1,500 retail stations and 300 Petro-Pass wholesale locations nationwide.


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B.C. gives $4 million in rebates for electric vehicle charge stations

The B.C. government is offering rebates for electric vehicle drivers who want to install charging stations at home or work.

Homeowners can get a $350 rebate to install a Level 2 charging station in a single-family home.

A $2,000 rebate is available for installation of a Level 2 charging station designed for multiple users in apartments or workplaces.

The government says in a statement that BC Hydro customers can apply for an additional $350 in a matching rebate to buy and install the equipment in single-family homes.

More than $4 million has been set aside for the new CleanBC rebate program.

Michelle Mungall, minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources, says the rebates will make it easier to switch to electric vehicles.

To qualify for the rebates, the stations must be installed and final documents submitted by March 31.


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Auto manufacturers bet big on electric. Will consumers buy in?

The headwinds buffeting the auto industry made themselves felt at the Frankfurt Motor Show, with companies confronting a slowdown in sales due to global trade uncertainty and pressure from governments to lower emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases.

vw-id-2380eSigns of the times at this year’s show include a slew of new, market-ready electric cars led by Volkswagen’s ID.3 compact that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

European carmakers will be rolling out new battery-powered vehicles to meet the European Union’s tougher limits from 2021 on emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas blamed for global warming. The lower limits are part of the EU’s effort to meet the targets of the 2015 Paris climate accord. China, the world’s largest auto market, is also pushing for more low-emission vehicles.

Yet it remains very much open whether consumers will want to buy electric cars, given concerns about range, lack of places to charge away from home, and higher purchase prices. Battery vehicles were only 1.8% of the European market through the first six months of the year, according to figures from industry analysts at JATO Dynamics. The cars have sold better in the high end of the market, as exemplified by Tesla’s Model S and Model X.

The argument for rolling out so many new electric cars is that consumers need to see enough to choose from before they will change their purchasing habits. Some 20 models will hit the European market by 2021, targeting 400,000 in sales, according to research firm Bernstein, in a European market of roughly 15 million cars sold annually.

Volkswagen has committed most heavily to electric cars among European manufacturers. It hopes to have a mass market electric car in the ID.3 compact, which it says will have a base price under 30,000 euros ($33,000), about as much as a similarly equipped Golf diesel.

Others with new electric offerings include Honda with the e, which replaces side mirrors with cameras, and Daimler’s Smart with restyled versions of its small cars. At the high end, Porsche is taking aim at the Tesla Model S with the Taycan, a high-performance coupe starting at 152,000 euros in Germany including value-added tax and from $152,000 in the U.S.

Ford Motor Co. says that more than half of its European sales will be electric-powered by 2022 as it unveils a premium model of its Puma crossover that uses recovered braking energy to boost acceleration.

Ford showed off the Puma Titanium X at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The vehicle is a so-called mild hybrid, meaning it can store energy from braking and coasting in a 48-volt lithium-ion battery and send that power to the wheels to assist the gasoline engine when needed.

Ford, which got a late start in developing electric vehicles, last year sold 974,856 passenger vehicles overall in Europe.

It says it will have a battery-only SUV based on the Mustang in 2020. In the meantime it is offering plug-in hybrids that combine battery power with internal combustion engines to lower emissions and increase mileage. Like all automakers, Ford is facing stricter European Union limits on average emissions of carbon dioxide starting in 2021 and must find a lower emission vehicle mix to avoid fines.

BMW’s marketing chief says giving customers a broad choice among internal combustion, hybrid and battery-powered cars is the right approach to a changing market.

Pieter Nota says the Munich-based luxury automaker delivers “power of choice” to consumers by offering “`the drive train that they want and need.” The company will add a battery-only version of its X3 SUV next year to round out conventional and hybrid versions of the vehicle. BMW is even showing off a concept car powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

BMW is relying on the mix of vehicles to comply with tighter C02 emissions requirements in Europe while competitor Volkswagen is making a big push into battery-only cars with its ID.3 coming to market next year despite currently low uptake by consumers of battery-powered cars.

Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz is showing off a long, sleek battery-powered concept vehicle that could join the luxury carmaker’s model lineup alongside its S-Class flagship sedans.

The Vision EQS is the latest version of the company’s EQ series of battery vehicles, which were a key theme at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

CEO Ola Kallenius said: “What we showed today is the first large-platform sedan, fully electric on a dedicated platform, so we think we can capture even more customers through having a wider offer.”

The concept, with a black LED display instead of a grille, slightly bulging wheel wells and a long, sweeping illuminated line running along the vehicle, is “a hint” of what the production car might eventually look like.

The company says the four-seater car has two electric motors that accelerate it to 100 kph (62 mph) in 4.5 seconds and an exceptional battery range of 700 kilometres (435 miles.) Kallenius declined to specify how the company achieved range beyond what other electrics currently offer.

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess says his company’s massive scale will enable it to make profits on large numbers of affordable electric cars it aims to sell in the next several years.

Electric competitor Tesla has not yet turned a profit while analysts say fellow German automaker BMW has lost money on its i3 electric.

Diess told The Associated Press: “Our approach is different. We come with high volumes, we come with a dedicated platform that is only for electric cars, and we generate a lot of scale because we are investing at the same time in China, in Europe, and in the US.”


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Additional charging stations in B.C. add range for eco friendly vehicles

EV Charging Sign_Sm_071219British Columbia is making it easier to explore the province in eco-friendly electric vehicles.

The Ministry of Transportation says 12 vehicle charging sites have been completed and more are on the way.

Nine of the 12 sites offer direct-current equipment, capable of completely charging a fully depleted battery in 30 minutes or less.

Level two chargers at the other three stations, which are part of the Accelerate Kootenays electric vehicle charging network, can recharge an empty battery in two to 10 hours, depending on the vehicle.

The ministry says the completed sites include one between Merritt and Kelowna, two on Highway 3 near Hope and Osoyoos, three north of Kamloops and three in southeastern B.C.

Three more sites on Vancouver Island are located between Port Alberni and Tofino and in Port Renfrew.

The province says more charging stations on Vancouver Island and in the Cariboo, Prince George and Hazelton areas are due for completion later this summer, raising the number of stations across B.C. to more than 1,700.

The government estimates 350,000 electric vehicles are expected on the province’s roads by 2030 and Environment Minister George Heyman says that’s due to the growing awareness of the impacts of climate change.

“We’re committed to a cleaner future here in B.C.,” Heyman says in a statement.

“As part of that, we’re making zero-emission vehicles more accessible. The more electric vehicles we have on our roads, the less we pollute, and that benefits people and communities everywhere.”