Sunday, February 24, 2008

ZENN and the Art of Clean Air Maintenance

I've been following the story of the Made in Canada electric car for about a year now waiting to hear that they can be bought and driven in Canada only to read yet another article in the newspaper about how Transport Canada and the provinces just don't want to allow these cars on Canadian public roads, except for B.C. - the only "can do" province at the moment. P.E.I. is seriously considering allowing them in some jurisdictions. The main car that has been in the public eye is the ZENN (Zero Emission No Noise) manufactured in St. Jerome, Quebec, with their head office in Toronto. The beauty of these cars is that they have a proven safety record in urban environments (because they've been driven in petrol/diesel forms for years in European cities), they reduce total greenhouse gas emissions AND they don't add to city air pollution on the road! The problem we're having with Canadian regulatory agencies and governments is that they can't get their minds around the idea that now some of our cities are big enough that we need these in-between vehicles. It is not a safety versus health debate at all! These are Low Speed Vehicles with a regulated speed of 40km/hr. They are perfectly suited for driving on community roads with a speed limit of 50km/hr. They aren't required to have the same safety features as a full-size vehicle, because they wouldn't be going on highways or expressways. But the ZENN and other cars like it do have safety features that are appropriate protection from injury in the kind of low-speed accidents that they might be involved in (satisfying regulatory agencies in the U.K., in Europe and in the U.S.). The Microcar (ZENN's petrol/deisel version) is driven in 19 European countries including France (where they are based), the U.K., Germany, Norway, Sweden and Finland. In the U.S. as of 1999 these vehicles have their own definition as a subclass within the Low Speed Vehicle class. They're called Neighbourhood Electric Vehicles.

This recent article in the Saturday Toronto Star also mentions the IT Sedan made by Dynasty cars based in B.C., the ZX40S by Miles based in L.A. and the MAYA300 Lithium by Electrovaya based in Mississauga. Click here to read the article.

More electric car companies are emerging but none of them are manufactured in Canada. Dynasty which is still based in B.C. and was manufacturing there got tired of fighting with the government and gave up on the idea of a Canadian market for their cars. They've moved their manufacturing facilities to China which is also where Miles Automotive has their operations.

Lets not lose ZENN.

Transport Canada has now redefined LSVs as being for use in restricted environments like retirement communities or university campuses. And the Ontario government currently has NO INTENTION OF ALLOWING LSVs/NEVs ON PUBLIC ROADS. So the fight is not over yet. We have to increase the pressure, increase the publicity and call our politicians to get them to act on this. The road safety issues that they are trying to scare the public with are just not valid.

Why are they making us do so much work to get the same choices that people already have in U.S. states like Iowa and Minnesota?

(i) Sign the petition on the ZENN website. (This is a dead link at the moment and so might be over but I will keep checking on it.) I will make a list of local petitions I come upon in the side bar. Try ii and iii, neither one has to take much time or effort.
(ii) Send a quick e-mail or make a quick phone call to your federal MP and your provincial representative. Easy links to contact info are listed on the right. The impact of a personal contact to your representative, in case you've never done it before, is greater than you might imagine.
(iii) If you have some time you could write an old fashioned letter or postcard and send it in the post. That really gets their attention. Government departments like Transport Canada and provincial Ministries of Transportation are required to respond in writing. Your representatives might or might not respond, but you can be sure that they take note.

Other highlights in the last 5 months of the ZENN saga:

Reg Sherron's report for CBC, October 25, 2007: Unplugging the Electric Car
Reg Sherron's follow-up on CBC, November 5, 2007: A Victory for ZENN's Electric Car
Rick Mercer visits the ZENN manufacturing facility (see first YouTube video up top)
ZENN on Global TV - best history of the company

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