We asked an expert about the impact EVs have on climate change (and our wallets)

Jul 5 2022, 9:52 pm

If you weren’t seriously considering owning an electric vehicle (EV) before these record-breaking gas prices graced us with their presence, then you likely are now.

But breaking into EV ownership is easier said than done, especially if you’re one of the millions of Canadians who live in a home where a charging point can’t be easily installed. That’s why the Pembina Institute, an RBC Tech for Nature partner, is working on ways to expand access to EVs to more Canadians, as part of its goal of ensuring a prosperous clean energy future through credible policy solutions.

RBC Tech for Nature — RBC’s global, multi-year, $100 million commitment to support new ideas, technologies, and partnerships — addresses some of the most complex environmental challenges we face. Working with partners such as the Pembina Institute, the program leverages technology and innovation capabilities to face these challenges and create a better future for all.

“Electric vehicles are a key part of the green future we are all working towards,” says Vice President of Social Impact & Innovation at RBC Mark Beckles. “Pembina Institute’s work to increase EV resources and access, really moves the idea of EV from impossible to possible for Canadians.”

The Pembina Institute is working to bring more accessible EV charging stations to Canada

GLF Media/Shutterstock

The Pembina Institute’s project has one primary purpose, and that is to make EV home charging more accessible to a wider range of residents; especially in Alberta, where EV sales lag behind other provinces like BC, Ontario, and Quebec.

Even with the increasing popularity of EVs, most multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs) don’t offer accessible charging stations for these types of vehicles. But these MURBs present an opportunity to make EVs more accessible by expanding residential charging infrastructure beyond single-family homes.

The Pembina Institute is working to bring more accessible EV charging stations to Canada

A Pembina Institute future of transportation conference (The Pembina Institute)

“Around 30% of Canadian households live in MURBs, where it’s much harder for a prospective EV owner to install a charging station than in a private garage,” says Jason R. Wang, an analyst at the Pembina Institute. “As the industry and governments have learned many times, building EV charging infrastructure always comes before people start purchasing EVs, so it’s important that folks who live in MURBs aren’t held back from buying EVs.”

“MURB residents include households with lower incomes, so our project can help enable everyone to benefit from the cheaper costs of owning an EV, especially as EV prices continue to fall,” says Wang. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the cost of purchasing an EV is expected to reach parity with gasoline vehicles by 2026 in North America.

By making the process of charger installation more approachable for building owners, property managers, condo boards, and residents, the Pembina Institute says they will also indirectly promote healthier communities by reducing exhaust pollution where people live. Their initiative will also connect stakeholders to resources and networks, empowering communities to accomplish EV charging solutions that best suit their needs.

In 2020, the transport sector accounted for 24% of national greenhouse gas emissions and around a third of emissions for Canadian cities like Calgary, making it the second-largest sector for emissions in Canada.

Driving an EV, The Pembina Institute is working to bring more accessible EV charging stations to Canada

TierneyMJ/Shutterstock

“The widespread switch to electric vehicles will directly reduce emissions from one of the largest emitting sectors in Canada,” says Wang. “Even in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where a lot of electricity generation still comes from coal and gas, it is still cleaner to drive an EV today. However, with the federal government committing to a net-zero emissions electricity grid in Canada  by 2035, driving an EV will get cleaner and cleaner every day.”

Not to mention that lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from using an EV are already lower than internal combustion vehicles in all Canadian provinces, and most places in Yukon and the Northwest Territories, according to Wang.

“Because [EVs] have zero tailpipe emissions, EV ownership contributes positively to air quality around residential areas, reducing the presence of respiratory irritants and cancer-causing agents found in car exhaust.”

And not only do EVs directly help the planet, but they significantly help your wallet when it comes to maintenance, too. Beyond the fact that the cost of owning an EV is already cheaper than a gas or diesel vehicle, EVs have half of the maintenance of other cars.

The Pembina Institute is working to bring more accessible EV charging stations to MURBS Canada

1933 Media Productions/Shutterstock

“Charging an EV in Alberta is the cost equivalent of $0.58/L for a gasoline car, much lower than the cost of gasoline or diesel,” says Wang. “But since electric vehicles use around 90% of the energy in their battery-powered motors — compared to the only 30% to 40% efficiency of gas and diesel engines — EVs give drivers even more value.”

And the perks don’t stop there. Additional benefits are being added to EVs, such as partaking in grid stability and energy independence for homeowners. “For example, the new Ford F-150 Lightning can provide backup electricity to homes for up to 10 days. There are an increasing number of pilot projects underway for ‘vehicle to grid’ technologies, where EVs can help to keep electricity costs low and reduce the need for expensive gas power plants,” says Wang.

“Since EVs are going to become more affordable quickly, we want to see charging infrastructure become more accessible, and not only in affluent neighbourhoods,” says Wang.

To learn more about the Pembina Institute, visit their website at pembina.org. To read more similar stories, check out the RBC Tech for Nature content hub.

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