Ontario’s auto industry lifts up and shines with electric vehicles

Today, Ontario stands apart as a leader in creating the groundwork for electric vehicle sales, which saw 5,400 new green-powered vehicles in the province last year. That’s double the number of EVs on Ontario roads in 2017, and outpaces output of all other provinces combined, according to Ford Canada, which released stats Tuesday. Ontario’s leadership can be attributed to the province’s decision to commit to sell more electric vehicles and to call on the auto industry to come up with better electric car powertrains, said Lee Richardson, Ford Canada’s senior director of government relations. “The model for auto production right now and the government’s interest is [the] combustion engine, but the popularity of EVs is declining,” he told Canada’s Ethics Commission. “[We] know [Ontario] is the market leader because the government put the pedal to the metal and put policy measures in place for electric vehicles to do well.”

After Ford Canada urged government to purchase more EVs, Premier Doug Ford reversed the previous government’s policy and ordered the provincial highway maintenance, transportation and transit agency SGI to remove incentives for electric vehicles purchased by companies who bought large fleets. “Ford’s concern is not with the market performance for EV,” Richardson said. “[Our] concern is for the market in general.” Ford Canada’s and SGI’s move toward including plug-in hybrid vehicles to reach the province’s lofty 2030 goal and 30 percent of all vehicles sold by 2030, he said, would create more positive competition in the industry as other provinces could pursue the same methods as Ontario did. The federal government currently plans to purchase 1 million EVs by 2025.

In its newly released first-quarter economic update, Ford Canada’s CEO Andy Bell wrote that 100 percent of the automaker’s Canada-based employees are now fully on board with the Ontario approach to the EV transition. “We cannot move forward if we can’t,” he wrote. “Ford employees are willing to not only move forward with the government and ourselves, they want to see a more diverse and tech-enabled Ontario.” Ford Canada’s entry into the EV fray comes after years of backing up its promise to employ electric vehicles with a $14.7 million loan to its own research lab, which is focused on developing self-driving vehicle technologies. While Ford hasn’t adopted the auto industry approach to EVs, with hybrid cars and vehicles that operate on batteries alone, Richardson said its corporate wing is still trying to figure out “who has the best technology,” he said. Ford’s role is now focused on the development of the industry, he said. “We’re going to try to facilitate some of that advance,” he said.

Ford’s shift to electrification has been rocky. The automaker is now embroiled in controversy after footage of two of its Ford workers mocking a man with Down syndrome during an electric vehicle demonstration was posted on social media. “Anyone who worked for my predecessor was a cunt,” one of the men in the video can be heard saying. The two are now suspended from their jobs, but the backlash is so intense that, as of today, EMD, the man in the video, has become a trending topic on social media, receiving up to 10,000 “likes” per day.

Image: Electric vehicle charge stick

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