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Moving Forward on Energy Efficiency in Canada: A Foundation for Action



There are five transportation modes: on-road and off-road transportation; air; rail; and marine. They represent approximately 30% of Canada's total secondary energy use. This foundation document focuses on energy efficiency in on-road transportation, which accounts for 78% of transportation energy use, and which is forecast to grow five times faster than the next closest mode, air travel29.

Energy Use in Canada's Transportation Sector 1990 to 2004 Figure 9:While total energy use in transportation grew by 31%, growth within each sub-sector varied, with Personal Mobility growing at a slower rate than Commercial/Institutional. Growth within Personal mobility was driven by increases in private vehicle ownership and passenger travel rates, while growth in Commercial/Institutional was driven by increases in tonne-km. For both sectors, the impact of growth was partially offset by declines in energy intensity.

On-road transportation is divided into two segments:

  1. Personal Mobility covers the movement of individuals and the ways in which they meet their personal travel needs (e.g., work, recreation, etc.), and
  2. Commercial/Institutional transportation supports business and the delivery of services.


Transportation energy demand is expected to grow substantially - 90% between 1990 and 2030 - far outpacing growth in other sectors30. At this rate, by 2050, transportation will overtake industry to become Canada's highest energy-consuming sector. Personal Mobility accounts for slightly more than half of on-road energy use. It is forecasted that Personal Mobility and Commercial/ Institutional transportation will contribute nearly equally to a 45% rise in road energy use between 2004 and 203031.

Population density and personal wealth are the most important determinants of how much transportation energy individual Canadians use32. With higher population densities, people typically need to travel shorter distances to meet their needs. Canada's population density is expected to rise from 2.7 to 3.9 people per km2 between 1990 and 203033, with more of the population living in urban areas than currently. However, over the same time period, incomes are expected to grow substantially (62% increase in disposable income between 1990 and 2030)34. This means that cars and leisure activities - which often require transportation - become more affordable. As a result, expected increases in vehicle ownership (24% between 1990 and 2030)35 combined with discretionary travel are expected to put increased pressure on energy used for Personal Mobility which will counteract the impact of increasing population density.

The amount of energy required for Commercial/ Institutional transportation depends on three principal factors:

  1. Economic activity which is expected to continue to rise (157% increase in GDP between 1990 and 2030)36. This means that more goods and services will need transport, increasing transportation energy demand. Further, the economy is becoming increasingly reliant on international trade, resulting in transportation over greater distances and corresponding increases in energy use.
  2. The structure of the economy As Canada shifts from a manufacturing to a service economy, the nature of commercial transportation may change - in terms of the types of vehicles, activities and goods transported. The impact on transportation energy use is unclear. Rising demand for services, packaged goods and just-in-time delivery could mean lighter loads, but more frequent trips.
  3. Population density Finally, as our population density increases, routes at destination points - largely cities - are becoming more congested. Our aging infrastructure, which was designed to accommodate very different patterns of goods movement from those of today, is increasingly challenged to meet the needs of commercial movement in an efficient way.

For Personal Mobility, modest improvements in energy intensity have occurred over the last decade and a half, despite the fact that more Canadians own cars and that passenger travel is increasing. This is primarily due to energy efficiency improvements in cars and light trucks, which mean it takes less energy to travel one vehicle kilometre.

On the Commercial/Institutional side, energy intensity has improved as measured by the GDP (energy per unit of GDP) or the weight of freight hauled (energy per tonne-kilometre). However, these metrics do not provide a complete picture for this sector:

  • Institutional and service vehicles (e.g. ambulances, dump trucks, ploughs, taxis, utility trucks) are not used to haul goods. This means they distort the relationship between transportation energy use and tonne-kilometres.
  • Using GDP as a measure broadly indicates economic activity - a key driver of transportation energy demand. However, institutional transportation is more dependent on population than economic activity, and for freight, structural changes in the economy towards higher-value goods distort the relationship between transportation energy and GDP.

These issues aside, despite evidence of improving intensity, with aggressive activity growth forecast, it is evident that the job of improving transportation energy efficiency in the future will be particularly important.

Tools, Technologies and Practices

Personal Mobility

In addition to private vehicle travel, Personal Mobility includes the use of buses, public transit, ridesharing, walking and cycling. Because transportation is fundamentally about access, energy use in Personal Mobility is inextricably linked to the way our communities are designed. A variety of actions within the marketplace could occur to improve energy efficiency in personal mobility, such as:

  • Strong demand by consumers for energy efficiency in the vehicles they purchase and rent;
  • Improved availability of energy efficient vehicles from manufacturers and suppliers and development of special infrastructure as required;
  • Improvements in the driving and maintenance practices of drivers, owners and mechanics to obtain optimal energy efficiency performance from vehicles;
  • Design of communities and roadways to minimize transportation energy demand;
  • Strengthening and/or amending policies that govern how roadways are used to enhance energy efficiency (e.g., mandatory inclusion of bicycle lanes on roadways where beneficial, or stricter penalties to control aggressive driving);
  • Replacing energy-intensive private vehicle travel with lower intensity options, such as mass transit, ride-sharing and multi-modal trips. This will require increased availability and use of these options; and
  • Increased use of innovative options that reduce overall transportation requirements, including home-based offices, workplace daycare programs, online shopping and telecommunications.
Tools to Support Improvements In Energy Efficiency for Personal Mobility

Mandatory vehicle fuel consumption standards

Mandatory minimum energy efficiency standards for vehicle equipment (e.g., tires, air conditioning systems)

Regular mandatory vehicle inspection and maintenance programs

Municipal/provincial regulations that provide preferential access or waiver of charges for certified efficient vehicles or high-occupancy vehicles (e.g., parking policies, high occupancy vehicle lanes and road tolls, the proceeds of which would be directed to other energy efficiency initiatives)

Endorsement of Smart Growth policies and engagement of ministries responsible for land use planning policies and municipal acts to encourage implementation

Building codes that require modal integration (e.g., bike racks and shower facilities, limitations on parking) and inclusion of special infrastructure where/when prudent to support emerging efficient technologies (e.g., plugs and meters to facilitate recharging of electric and/or plug-in hybrid vehicles)

Policies that limit parking availability and/ or provide preferred access for rideshare program participants or drivers of efficient vehicles

Introduction and enforcement of anti-idling bylaws

Stronger enforcement of speed limits and other aggressive driving behaviours

Provincial licensing requirements that incorporate knowledge of energy efficient driving practices

Research, Development and Deployment

Support for new vehicle technology options that result in energy efficiency outcomes (e.g., driver notification systems, tire inflation monitors, automatic tire inflation devices, econometers, etc.)

Support for improved vehicle testing procedures in order to capture the effects of technologies that perform better on road than in the test procedure (e.g., cylinder deactivation technology, direct injection and air-conditioning systems)

Research to gather information on vehicle maintenance habits of Canadians

Funding for data acquisition to inform public transit planning decisions (e.g., accessibility and market studies to better understand consumer needs and preferences)

Support for research, development and deployment of road information systems, speed compliance technology and intelligent traffic systems

Capacity Building

Long-term funding for public transit infrastructure

Certification and energy efficiency training programs for mechanics

Support for training programs to educate professionals on transportation energy efficiency issues including the development and sharing of "best practices" (e.g., architects, municipal planners and other urban-design decision-makers)

Leadership Leadership by government and corporate fleets through policies that require purchase and rental of energy efficient vehicles when feasible and energy efficient driver training

Public education programs for adults, youth and new drivers to increase awareness of energy efficiency issues (e.g., the impact of individual behaviours on energy efficiency, maintenance practices including tire inflation, walking and cycling route maps, bicycle safety and proper bicycle stowage on public transit racks, etc.)

A vehicle rating and labelling program that allows consumers to compare fuel efficiency within and between vehicle classes, to clearly identify the vehicles that are the most efficient - similar to ENERGY STAR®

Campaigns and voluntary programs with industry to increase the uptake of alternatives to transport such as online shopping, telecommuting, in-house daycare services, on-site training, etc.

Education and tools to improve understanding and inform personal transportation decisions (e.g., trip planning, modal selection, vehicle lifecycle costs to better inform purchasing decisions

Market Stimulation

Fuel taxes/pricing that better reflect the full cost of transportation, the proceeds of which could be directed toward other energy efficiency initiatives

Performance-based incentives that encourage consumers to purchase fuel efficient vehicles (e.g., differential vehicle registration, insurance fees based on fuel consumption ratings of the vehicle, partnerships with financial institutions to provide preferred financing rates for efficient vehicles)

Performance-based incentives that encourage consumers to operate vehicles efficiently (e.g., preferential provincial car insurance rates for rideshare program participants energy efficient drivers, and clients that use alternative modes of transport for work)

Tax incentives to encourage the development of, and investment in, high density population areas and mixed use developments, both of which make alternatives to private vehicle travel more attractive and feasible

Transit pricing to ensure transit is a cost-effective option

Income tax regulations for businesses and individuals to encourage the uptake of alternatives to vehicle-transport such as public transit, teleworking, online shopping, in-house daycare services, on-site training, etc.

Commercial/Institutional Transportation

Information relating to the Commercial/Institutional sub-sector is fragmented, and there is a shortage of Canadian data in particular. As a result, the relative importance of the fuel consumption of non-freight vehicles is not well understood; nor is it possible to prioritize energy efficiency opportunities for non-freight activities. Further research and data collection are the first priorities of an energy efficiency strategy for this sub-sector. The following broad changes would improve efficiency:

  • Stronger demand from commercial purchasers for energy efficiency in the vehicles and equipment they purchase and rent;
  • Improved availability of energy efficient vehicles, vehicle components and equipment from manufacturers and suppliers and development of special infrastructure as required;
  • Optimized configuration of vehicles and equipment to their duty cycle to obtain maximum energy efficiency;
  • Improved driving and maintenance practices to obtain optimal energy efficiency performance from vehicles;
  • Harmonization of regulations that affect commercial movements, to encourage increased use of technologies and practices that enhance vehicle efficiency;
  • The use of complementary transportation and land-use planning, combined with the communications and logistics technologies that minimize the energy requirements of commercial vehicles within urban systems, on highways and at interface centres (loading docks, border crossings); and
  • Increased availability of information and wide-scale adoption of best practices by shippers, fleet managers and other transportation personnel to optimize energy efficiency of commercial movement.
Tools to Support Improvements In Energy Efficiency for Commercial/Institutional Transportation

Partnerships with international jurisdictions to coordinate and participate in the development and harmonization of standards for vehicle, engine design and equipment efficiency and fuels and fuel components (insofar as they impact design of efficient engines)

Harmonization of provincial and federal regulations affecting Commercial/ Institutional transport

Standards for specific vehicle and equipment components such as tires and refrigeration units

Policies or incentives to encourage penetration of vehicle technologies that flag efficiency issues (e.g., tire inflation monitors)

Minimum energy efficiency standards for after-market tires

Regular mandatory vehicle inspection and maintenance programs that include identification of issues affecting energy efficiency

Funding criteria for new infrastructure with provisions that would enable freight trucks to carry heavier loads, reducing the number of trips required, and allowing trucks to add efficiency-enhancing equipment that would otherwise entail a weight penalty

Regulations that provide preferential access or waiver of charges for certified efficient vehicles through road tolls

Freight-only toll-based infrastructure improvements

Research, Development and Deployment

Funding for data acquisition and research to characterize the Canadian Commercial/ Institutional vehicle fleet, equipment, duty cycles and current vehicle maintenance and identify energy efficiency potential in this sector

Support for the development and deployment of technology options that result in energy efficiency outcomes (i.e. lightweight materials, auxiliary power units, advanced aerodynamics, driver notification systems, automatic tire inflation devices, econometers, etc.), for example through fiscal and tax policies

Support for the development and deployment of alternative power technologies and/or substitute means of providing power to accessory equipment, to eliminate the need to idle the vehicle for this purpose, for example through fiscal and tax policies

Research to identify the energy efficiency potential of a modal shift and the policy analysis required

Funding support for research, development and deployment of intelligent highway systems

Capacity Building

Creation of a clearinghouse to gather, share and analyze data on energy use in the Commercial/ Institutional transportation sector

Environmental fleet certification and auditing programs that identify and benchmark energy efficiency opportunities and strategies for improvements to be used by fleet and private mechanics, fleet managers, decision-makers and owner operators

Partnerships with authorities at interface centres to encourage incorporation of transportation energy efficiency into planning

Partnerships with shippers and/or rail and marine industry to encourage modal shift and to reduce packaging

Recognition programs for efficient fleets to showcase best practices

Training and incentives to optimize logistics, lifecycle and route planning tools

Mechanism for commercial vehicle operators, including owner-operators, to participate in a potential greenhouse gas emissions offset trading system

Energy efficiency driver training tailored to specific fleet operations and duty cycles

Driver certification programs that incorporate energy efficient driving techniques

Encourage provinces to identify energy efficient driver training as a requirement to secure a Commercial Drivers Licence

Leadership Leadership by government and corporate fleets through policies that require energy efficient driver training and purchase and rental of energy efficient vehicles when feasible

Energy efficiency labelling programs for vehicle components such as engines, trailers, tires, etc.

Lifecycle costing tools for purchasers that illustrate full lifecycle fuel costs to better inform purchasing decisions

Education and training programs for fleet managers and other vehicle purchasers that focus on lifecycle costing tools and best practices for vehicle configurations according to duty cycle

Public education programs to increase awareness of energy efficient maintenance practices

Information and training on efficiency best practices for shippers, including supply-chain management, logistics and loading practices

Market Stimulation

Rebates for hybrid vehicles in all vehicle classes

Business income tax deductions for highly efficient vehicles

Fuel pricing policies to better reflect the full cost of transportation

Energy revenues could be directed to other energy efficiency initiatives

Differential taxes for light duty vehicles and medium/heavy vehicles to pay for the different degrees of impact on infrastructure

High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes

One year after opening the province's first High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on highways 403 and 404, Ontario found a substantial increase in the number of commuters that carpool on these highways. The number of carpoolers rose from less than 20 per cent to nearly 40 per cent during morning peak hours. This represents a significant reduction in energy intensity over single-occupant private vehicle travel.

29 Extrapolated using data obtained from Natural Resources Canada

30 Ibid

31 Ibid

32 Extrapolated from the Conference Board of Canada's report: Build it and Will They Drive? Modelling Light-Duty Vehicle Travel Demand

33 Extrapolated using Natural Resources Canada's report: Canada's Energy Outlook 2006

34 Extrapolated from Natural Resources Canada's report: Canada's Energy Outlook 2006

35 Ibid

36 Ibid