British Columbia yesterday passed an emissions law aimed at curbing the production and sale of fuel-burning cars in the Canadian province, marking North America’s most aggressive legislation to date, according to the CBC. The law mandates that 10 percent of all vehicles sold by 2025 be zero emission ones, while the sale of fuel-burning cars and trucks will be banned outright by 2040. Zero emission vehicles include battery electric, plug-in hybrids, and hydrogen fuel-cell models.
The law, called the Zero-Emission Vehicles Act (ZEVA), is not without its critics. The CBC says opposition to the ZEVA mostly centers on the law’s potential ineffectiveness, with criticism aimed at the fact BC residents can simply purchase a vehicle in the neighboring Alberta province.
ZEVA also has a credit system for car manufacturers that do not want to or cannot produce the necessary zero emission vehicles, allowing car makers to pay a little extra money to save on the cost of actually developing the required environmentally friendly models. There is also provisions in the law stating that it can be adjusted depending on the overall production of zero emission vehicles over the next 20 years, in anticipation of a eventual 2040 ban that may ultimately prove too aggressive.
Regardless, ZEVA is a milestone for North America, which lags far behind Europe in legislation regarding fuel-burning cars. Numerous European countries already have in place laws regulating the sale of gas-powered vehicles and laying out incentivizes to increase the number of electric and zero emission ones.
In Norway, Europe’s leading electric market ahead of Germany, one out of every three cars purchased is an electric vehicle. The country is even installing the world’s first electric taxi charging system to help it achieve a zero emission country-wide cab fleet by 2023. Meanwhile, numerous other countries have set out targets for banning traditional cars and vans, with Norway aiming for 2025 and France and the UK for 2040 and 2050, respectively. (Granted, the legislation for actually mandating the bans lags far behind.) The mayor of Denmark capital Copenhagen went so far as to propose a ban on diesel cars in the city last year that would go into effect by the end of 2019; Copenhagen has since tempered its proposal to aim for net-zero carbon emissions and carbon neutrality by 2025.
In the US, however, citizens bought more than 17 million new cars last year, with just 1.2 percent of them being electric, according to the International Energy Agency. A number of cities, most prominently in California, have mulled over gas car bans to try and move the needle on electric car sales and lower emissions. And just last week, a bill, called the Zero-Emission Vehicles Act, was proposed in the US House of Representatives seeking to ban the sale of gas-powered passenger cars in the US by 2040. It follows a similar bill from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti introduced in April that seeks a ban on the sale and use of gas-powered cars in the city by 2050.
But right now BC, where six percent of all new cars sold are zero emission vehicles, is the only area in North America to actually pass hard legislation. That’s a win for Canada, but it’s not clear it will mean much of anything for other parts of the continent.