Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Kingston was First Municipality in Ontario to Stand Up for the ZENN

I was in Kingston last week and I found out it was the first municipality in Ontario to pass a motion to support the use of the ZENN on public roads!

How did this happen? Why Kingston? Hard to say. Kingston is not a huge city but it does have a lively mix of people associated with some sizable institutions including Canada's Royal Military College, several large penitentiaries and Queens University. It's best known for it's other "first". Kingston was also the site of Canada's first parliament.

Here's the motion that Kingston City Council passed on April 1, 2008:

"Moved by Deputy Mayor Matheson
Seconded by Councillor Garrison

WHEREAS cars are one of the largest contributors to Greenhouse Gases; and,
WHEREAS the Federal Government has finally given their approval for the sale of the Canadian-made Zenn (Zero Emissions No Noise) Automobiles; and,
WHEREAS provincial approval is still needed to allow both the use and sale of Zenn Automobiles on Ontario roads;
and,
WHEREAS Mopeds and other forms of low speed vehicles are already currently allowed on Ontario roads; and,
WHEREAS Canada, and every province and municipality within our federation, must do our part to reduce our Greenhouse Gas emissions, and strive to not just meet but exceed the Kyoto Protocol targets;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Kingston City Council request that the Province of Ontario and every province and territory in Canada give approval for the Zenn car to be used on Ontario roads and able to be sold and used across Canada as soon as possible;
- and further -
THAT a copy of this resolution be sent for consideration and endorsement to Peter Milliken, MP, John Gerretsen, MPP, the Prime Minister of Canada, the federal ministers responsible for the Environment and Transportation, the Premiers of all provinces and territories, the Ministers responsible for Transportation and the Environment of each province and territory, all municipalities on our regular circulation list, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM)
and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO)."

I wonder if other municipalities are talking about passing or have already passed similar motions? And I wonder if that might be one of the reasons Ontario just announced that it is commissioning a study on how to introduce these kinds of vehicles on Ontario roads? The province has to legalize the use of low speed neighbourhood electric vehicles before anyone in Kingston could go out and buy and drive one. Having municipalities support their use would certainly help the provincial government to get over its worries that the general public wouldn't accept these little electric gems.

Here's the link to the Toronto Star article about Ontario's latest baby step toward approving Neighbourhood Electric Vehicles. But the story also ran in local papers in London, Timmins, Guelph, etc.

For some comments on Ontario's safety concerns scroll down to the second post below.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Quebec Allows the ZENN and Nemo on Public Roads

Quebec has announced a pilot project for Low Speed Vehicles/Neighbourhood Electric Vehicles that would allow the public to drive them on any Quebec road with a maximum speed limit of 50km/hr starting July 17. Unfortunately not all NEVs will be eligible, but the two manufacturers that will participate have had a lot of great press and praise. The two vehicles that Quebecois will be able to choose from are the ZENN, a small hatchback style passenger vehicle, and the NEMO, a little truck. Both are manufactured in Quebec.

The pilot project is currently set to last 3 years, with the possibility that it could be extended another 2 years after that. But Julie Boulet, Quebec's Minister of Transportation, who announced the plan was clear that the goal of the project is to develop appropriate rules of the road and safety requirements through experience with these vehicles. They do not expect that after 3-5 years people who have purchased one of these NEVs will have to give up driving it, but that some of the rules concerning their use may be amended, dropped or new rules created based on the information acquired over this trial period.

Some of the rules for the pilot project include drivers having to keep the vehicle's head and tail lights on at all times while driving and having to drive only in the right hand lane except to make a left turn. The NEV has to have two signs affixed to it: an orange triangle indicating it is a low speed vehicle and a sign indicating its top speed is 40km/hr. Also, it has to be equipped with winter tires when being driven in the winter. For a complete list of rules and regulations (in French) click here.

This bulletin from Transport Quebec also indicates that Municipalities have the regulatory power to prohibit or restrict the use of Low Speed Vehicles in their jurisdictions. So I guess the next question is: Are municipalities going to allow the use of NEVs, actively promote their use or discourage their use?

Montreal, for example, has already shown itself to be friendly to NEVs by hosting a couple of pilot projects for low speed electric cars. In the sidebar on the right there is a personal account by Luc Couillard who test drove one for two weeks in Montreal. And here is the description of one project (in French) run by the Agence Metropolitaine de Transport that involved about 100 electric vehicles.

If you've spoken to anybody on your city or town council in Quebec or anywhere else in Canada, it would be great if you'd leave a comment about what you found out!