Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ontario Killing the ZENN While Quebec and the USA Create Tax Incentives

It has been nearly two years since Premier Dalton McGuinty said he was going to see to it that "outdated legislation" wouldn't stop Ontario from "doing what's right for the environment". (Toronto Star article on Wheels.ca) And now, just in time for Earth Day on Wednesday April 22, the Province of Ontario looks set to reveal it's new regulations for a pilot project that will ... what? Regulate the ZENN and other Low-Speed Electric Vehicles out of the market place before they even get into the market place! The CBC News article says Ontario wants to require LSVs also called Neighbourhood Electric Vehicles to add more safety features beyond what Transport Canada requires for this class of vehicle.

At the same time the Federal Government in the United States is offering a $1250 rebate on these vehicles. Right now south of the border you can get a ZENN for under $10000 USD until the end of June. In Quebec the ZENN is eligible for a $4000 CDN refundable tax credit as part of a provincial program to encourage people to buy or lease highly fuel-efficient vehicles.

Ontario is struggling with the fact that these are lighter vehicles than regular cars. In a crash with a larger, heavier vehicle they don't hold up as well. But LSVs/NEVs have a regulated top speed of 40km/hr and are meant for roads with a maximum speed limit of 50km/hr in neighbourhood communities and urban environments and therefore they are quite rightly not required to have the same safety features as a regular passenger car.

The National Research Council (NRC) report, Safe Integration of
Electric Low Speed Vehicles on Ontario’s Roads in Mixed Traffic
that the Ontario Ministry of Transportation will undoubtedly cite to justify their extra safety requirements does not in effect offer any serious evidence of grave safety risks. It is full of imaginings and things that "may" happen. There are suggestions of difficulties that "may" arise. It is a report of hypothetical situations many of which are not supported by very strong logic or justified by any examples. To suggest that the manufacturers add on all kinds of extra safety features and increase the cost of the vehicle based on the suppositions of this report is untenable.

The report also does not look at the health benefits of wide spread use of this type of zero-emission vehicle and compare them with the safety risks. Interestingly enough the Ontario Newsroom website had an announcement a couple of days ago that the McGuinty government has approved a pilot program to allow 100 commercial trucks to pull two full-sized trailers claiming "Longer Trucks Will Benefit Economy, Environment and Road Safety". The article mentions that "Studies show that LCVs were involved in 60 per cent fewer collisions than single trailer trucks." It doesn't mention what kind of damage the double trailer trucks cause when they do get in an accident.

For more on the struggles that LSVs/NEVs have had in Ontario and the safety debate click here.

This weekend I plan to write a postcard to the Minister of Transportation, the Honourable Jim Bradley, and Premier Dalton McGuinty. My basic message will be that Ontario needs to focus on urban planning and transportation safety regulations that create healthy cities. We must stop designing for stressed-out SUV drivers suffering from road rage and stop encouraging what has become a kind of arms race in the automobile industry. The ZENN and NEMO and other NEVs are a real gift that their Canadian designers have developed for city living. They're quiet and they create no air pollution from their tailpipes. They are all-weather vehicles and the best in their class. Ontario must allow them on the road as they are and give them the support they need to improve as they surely will. We need these vehicles now.

I hope enough others will do the same over the next week to convince the government that they must support this new industry in Ontario. If anyone else is interested the contact information is below. You can call them if you prefer, but if you send a letter/e-mail/fax and provide a full return address, you will likely get a reply.

Ministry of Transportation
Corporate Correspondence Unit
3rd Floor, Ferguson Block
77 Wellesley Street West
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1Z8

Alternately you can send the Minister an electronic message directly through his website here.

Here is the contact information for the Premier.

For maximum impact send a copy to your Ontario MPP I suggest clicking in "Current MPPs" then scrolling the list of their names/ridings and clicking on the name of your representative. This is much faster than using the "MPP Addresses and contact information" link which is harder to wade through.


Source: Regulations will keep low-speed electric vehicles off Ontario roads CBC News April 15,2009

1 comment:

nick said...

Go Zenn! Come on Dalton!