Revving Canada’s economy with zero-emissions freight

With 10% of our emissions coming from freight, targeted federal support for ZEV trucks can future-proof the sector

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We asked Canada's thought leaders to weigh in with ideas for how the government should spend stimulus money as part of a Green Recovery. To read the entire report series, head to Planning for Green Recovery.


As we work to rebuild Canada’s economy in the wake of COVID-19, our investment choices will help determine our success in a competitive, 21st-century low-carbon economy. With transportation responsible for a quarter of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, decarbonizing the sector is key.

A multitude of investments can be made to help kickstart and encourage the greening of Canadian trucking in particular, which represent 83% of our freight emissions, according to the Conference Board of Canada (freight transport as a whole represents 10% of our national emissions).

First, a mandatory federal zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) sales target would help increase investments in production to get more electric cars, trucks and buses on the road. While a number of zero-emission truck models and components are being produced domestically, the transition to electrification in truck production is still in the early stages.

Targeted policy support for low- and zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles can future-proof Canada’s auto industry for electrification while growing the job market — including supply-side policies like research and development funding, loan guarantees and tax breaks for manufacturing plants.

Canada has pioneered the development of hydrogen fuel cell technologies, and hydrogen fuel cell trucks could play an important role. There is ample opportunity for continued government support in developing and producing hydrogen fuel cell technology – especially for heavy-duty vehicles.

To ensure that supply chain growth is paired with investment in infrastructure, the government should identify major corridors along which to invest in publicly funded zero-emission heavy-duty refuelling/recharging stations targeted at long haul operations, and create a five-year investment plan.

Finally, to encourage vehicle switching in the trucking sector, the government should allocate funding and loan programs for low- and zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles to help shift gears for a greener future.

Carolyn Kim is the Ontario regional director with the Pembina Institute.

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