Think-tank publishes net zero plan for heavy duty vehicles

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by Emily Atkins

The Pembina Institute has released its ZeroX2040 strategy to guide the transition from fossil-fuel powered trucks and buses to ones that produce zero emissions.

Canada has set 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan targets that specify 35 percent of manufacturers’ sales of MHDVs be non-emitting vehicles, increasing to 100 percent of sales in 2040. But, according to the institute, the government did not provide a plan for how to get there, so it published “Canada’s Pathway to Net-Zero for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Trucks and Buses”.

“The ZeroX2040 strategy is intended to help guide the federal government by providing recommendations that respond to the urgency of the situation while taking into consideration the challenges that industry and fleet operators face in switching to electric and hydrogen-fuelled vehicles,” said Adam Thorn, director, transportation at the Pembina Institute.

“There is significant risk that, without a credible roadmap and investment strategy at the federal level, or the policy coordination to accelerate transition at scale, we stand to lose Canada’s zero-emission vehicle supply to other jurisdictions and quite possibly fail to realize a carbon-neutral 2050.”

The transportation sector is the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada after oil and gas, with emissions from medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (MHDVs) threatening to surpass those generated by passenger cars by 2030. The carbon pollution produced by MHDVs has been rising steadily, doubling in output since 1990 and trending toward becoming the largest source of emissions in the transportation sector.

Analysis in the report shows that adoption of emission-free trucks and buses is not on track to meet the federal government’s targets nor is the build-out of charging infrastructure close to where it needs to be given the timelines. Should Canada fail to meet its clean transportation commitments, it will be impossible to realize net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The ZeroX2040 strategy provides policy recommendations which Canada can use to get on track and in line with its climate goals. Central to a successful transportation transition is for the government to institute sales requirements based on commercial viability rather than a uniform sales target across all MHDV classes.

Vehicles that are easiest to electrify, such as buses and most medium-duty vehicles, should be subject to the first wave of targets while sales goals for hard to decarbonize heavy-duty trucks are pushed back.

Should the MHDV sales targets be met in full and on time, MHDV carbon emissions would decline from 35 Mt in 2020 to 10 Mt or less by mid-century. The effect on oil demand in Canada would be profound: In the MHDV sector, under the same scenario, oil demand is projected to decrease by 80 percent in 2050 relative to 2020 levels.