Accelerating the Deployment of Zero Emission Vehicles: Atlantic Canada and the Prairies

Executive Summary

The main objectives of this study were centered around understanding perspectives on zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) and their deployment in the Atlantic and Prairie regions of Canada, two regions that have seen minimal uptake of ZEVs. This report serves to communicate the current state of play of ZEVs in these two regions and is particularly focused on regional and inter-regional challenges and opportunities, which were confirmed and discussed via stakeholder consultations carried out in each region.

In addition to serious detrimental impacts to the natural environment, climate change represents one of the largest threats to social, economic, and political systems worldwide. A 2011 study by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy estimated that climate change could cost Canada
$21-43 billion per year by 2050.

International concern has been demonstrated by the near-unanimous ratification of the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels”. A low carbon economy will ultimately be required to achieve the significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions required to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

Canada has set a 30% GHG emissions reduction target below 2005 levels by 2030 (equivalent to 523 Mt CO2e). Canada’s long-term goal is to reduce emissions by 80% from 2005 levels by 2050.Federal and provincial governments have introduced climate policies to help achieve these ambitions.

GHG emissions from the transportation sector are the second largest source of emissions in Canada, representing 24% of total GHG emissions in 2015, of which 12% originate from light duty vehicles. Canada recognizes that reducing transport emissions will be required for meeting its targets and has identified expanding the number of ZEVs on Canadian roads in its approach for doing so. The federal government is working with provincial and territorial governments, industry and other stakeholders to develop a Canada-wide ZEV strategy in 2018.

ZEVs include battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). Canada has seen impressive growth in ZEV sales over the past few years. In fact, ZEV sales in Canada increased 68% between 2016 and 2017. As of the end of 2017, the total number of ZEVs on Canadian roads was 47,800.

General key barriers to ZEV adoption in Canada include the upfront purchase cost, technology uncertainty, lack of charging infrastructure and lack of public awareness and education. Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia have implemented policies and programs to help overcome a number of these barriers and have seen significant growth in ZEV sales over the 2013 to 2017 time period.

Provinces in the Prairie and Atlantic regions have seen much lower ZEV adoption rates. While some municipalities in Alberta (namely Calgary and Edmonton) are developing their own ZEV strategies, accelerating ZEV deployment does not feature prominently in provincial climate strategies. Several provinces in the Atlantic region have included ZEVs as part of their plans to reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector, however policies have not yet been defined and implemented, and uptake remains low.

Regional Barriers and Opportunities

Subject matter expert interviews, regional workshops in Fredericton and Calgary, and an Atlantic Canada webinar were conducted to explore regional and provincial barriers and opportunities with respect to accelerating ZEV deployment.

In Atlantic Canada, barriers to ZEV adoption were identified including:

  • Lack of incentives and high purchase costs
  • Lack of consumer and policy-maker awareness and education about ZEVs and their benefits
  • Lack of public charging infrastructure
  • Lack of ZEV availability in dealerships
  • Lack of available models (e.g., pickup trucks) to meet required vehicle performance
  • specifications for large consumer demographics
  • Lack of access to maintenance and repair
  • Higher future ZEV deployment would displace revenue from gasoline sales taxes used
  • for road infrastructure
  • Displaced revenue for dealerships from service and repairs for ZEVs
  • Priority opportunities for action identified by Atlantic Canada region stakeholders included:
  • Incentives for vehicle purchase and charging infrastructure
  • Increase charging infrastructure
  • Education and awareness campaigns by multiple groups (Government, NGOs, OEMs, etc.)

Priority opportunities for action identified by Atlantic Canada region stakeholders included:

  • Incentives for vehicle purchase and charging infrastructure
  • Increase charging infrastructure
  • Education and awareness campaigns by multiple groups (Government, NGOs, OEMs, etc.)


In the Prairies region, barriers to ZEV adoption were identified including:

  • Lack of provincial government interest/engagement
  • Lack of coordination of stakeholders/activities
  • The higher cost of ZEVs and lack of equivalent models (e.g., pickup trucks and SUVs)
  • Lack of public charging infrastructure
  • Lack of consumer awareness (economic and environmental benefits, total cost of ownership,
  • infrastructure, safety)
  • Lack of ZEVs and service capabilities at dealerships
  • Technology barriers (battery performance and perceived cold weather performance)
  • Lack of standardization of charging infrastructure

Prairie region stakeholders identified several priority opportunities for action including:

  • The need for governments to make ZEVs a priority
  • Funding for vehicle incentives, charging infrastructure incentives and education/awareness
  • Exploring future/smart mobility systems

Provincial perspectives on grid readiness

While utility stakeholders from across Canada agree that ZEVs do not pose an immediate challenge from
an electricity generation capacity and transmission perspective, the primary challenge that ZEVs pose
is to local electricity distribution systems. This is especially true considering that ZEV adoption tends to
be concentrated in certain, mostly urban, neighbourhoods. Regional perspectives on grid readiness are
highlighted below.


Newfoundland and
Labrador generates 95% of
its electricity from hydro
sources and is a significant
net exporter of electricity.
Large GHG emissions
reductions could thus be
achieved from ZEV adoption.
Current levels of ZEV
market penetration do not
currently threaten local
electricity grids, however as
ZEV penetration increases,
the effects of ZEVs on
generation, transmission and
distribution infrastructure
will require examination.
NL Hydro has the exclusive
right to sell electrical power
to retailers on the island
portion of the province.
It is expected that any
distribution or system level
impacts could be minimized
by encouraging ZEV owners
to charge during off-peak
periods. This would increase
the utilization of existing
utility assets while reducing
the need for capacity
Measures, such as time
of use pricing, would
require significant metering
technology changes in
Newfoundland and Labrador

Approx. 25% of the
province’s electrical
needs are met by wind,
the highest percentage
of any jurisdiction in
North America. Further
increasing electrical
production from wind
is a priority. The use of
smart grid technology will
enable wind integration.
An increase in the peak
load identified as possible
adverse impact of ZEV
adoption and associated
electricity use, if users
charge their vehicles
when they get home from
work in the early evening
in winter.
Provincial Energy Strategy
(2016/17) identifies
options for mitigating
potential impacts, in
cooperation with electric
utilities. These include
linking the introduction
of ZEVs to smart grid
measures and harnessing
vehicle batteries to
manage electric loads.

NS Power is keen to
examine the potential
impacts of ZEV adoption
on the provincial
electrical system. The
short-term impacts of
L3 fast charging on the
electrical system are
expected to be greater
than L2 charging.
NS Power’s recent
proposal to install 12
L3 chargers as part of
pilot project to study the
impact and usage of the
charging network on the
electrical system, was
rejected by the Nova
Scotia Utility Review
The majority of existing
L2 charging stations
in Nova Scotia are not
network-enabled, which
means the opportunity for
data collection on usage

NB Power targets 40%
of electricity sales being
provided from renewable
energy, and a total of 90%
of electricity generation
from non-emitting
sources by 2020. Large
GHG emissions reductions
could thus be achieved
from ZEV adoption.
NB distribution is robust
—no foreseeable grid
concerns—might be local
community challenges
in future when adoption
numbers increase.
NB Power is keen on
smart grids as strategy
and ZEVs can play a
big role (i.e. storage,
vehicle-to-grid, etc.).


Provincial grid is >98%
emissions-free and
generation capacity is well
in excess of demand, which
means switching from
internal combustion engine
(ICE) vehicles to ZEVs offers
large-scale GHG reduction
Transportation is leading
source of emissions in the
province, yet ZEVs are not a
focus of Manitoba’s proposed
Climate and Green Plan.
Over 500,000 plug points
at home and at work
already exist in the province.
Manitobans are accustomed
to plugging in.
Conversion of all gasoline powered
vehicles to electricity
would require 1,200 GWh to
2,500 GWh a year.
The large-scale integration
of ZEV charging into
the electrical grid identified
as one area of focus for
Manitoba’s ZEV advisory

Electricity generation is the
leading source of emissions
in the province followed by
the oil and gas sector; current
priority is for government
to reduce emissions in
these areas rather than
Currently low demand for and
uptake of ZEVs in province, so
ZEVs currently pose little-tono
threat to provincial grids.
Province has no plans to
become engaged on public
ZEV charging.
Government will reassess
actions if and/or when ZEV
adoption increases.
SaskPower has the exclusive
right under the Power
Corporation Act to supply,
transmit and distribute
electricity, and to provide
retail services to consumers
in the province, except
for the Cities of Saskatoon
and Swift Current. Both
purchase electrical power
in bulk from SaskPower.

Not an issue on transmission
Utility capacity to incent
ZEV users to charge off-peak
or monitor ZEV impacts on
the grid is limited because
necessary advanced metering
infrastructure does not exist.
No legislative provisions
enabling utilities to rate
base the cost of charging
Future challenge on local
transformer levels with larger
ZEV adoption, but there are
technologies and incentives
for time of day charging
that could help address this.
A number of Alberta utilities
are being proactive in
planning for increased ZEV
adoption and recognize
emerging opportunities with
respect to ZEVs and advanced
energy management


Full reports available upon request. Please contact  Low Carbon and Alternative Fuels / Carburants à faible teneur en carbone et alternatifs at