Inventors, engineers, battery suppliers and electric vehicle developers, along with dozens of civil servants and academics, met in Vancouver last week for EV (Electric Vehicle) 2010.
While Germany, Japan, China, South Korea and the United States are investing billions in electric vehicle research and development, Canada's true believers struggle along with shoe-string budgets.
U.S. President Barack Obama seems to visit another EV developer every week, I presume to keep an eye on the $25-billion he's made available to the industry. No minister in the Harper government considered EV2010 in Vancouver worth attending.
"The U.S. industry is at 100 miles an hour and we're at zero," said Ed Cormier, executive director of Electric Mobility Canada, the non-profit organization that put on the convention. "Every G8 country in the world is giving financial support to the EV industry and incentives to consumers except one. That one is Canada."
There were about 60 presentations at the four-day event, which covered vehicle technologies, electric infrastructure readiness, public policy change requirements and environmental impacts.
A number of manufacturers including GM with its Chevy Volt, Mitsubishi with its i-MiEV and Toyota with its Plug-in Prius provided soon-to-be commercialized vehicles for test drives.
EV 2011 will be held in Toronto.
The green future isn’t friendly
CANADIAN EV DEVELOPERS BAND TOGETHER
The Canadian company most in evidence at EV 2010 was Azure Dynmaics, a successful developer of electric vehicle powertrains.
Vancouver is Azure's home town although it recently moved most of its activity to Michigan to take advantage of government grants. Smaller EV companies that remain in Canada have decided to pool their efforts and their intellectual property in a consortium.
Codenamed "Project Eve," the consortium includes companies across Canada with key electric mobility components such as electric motors and drivetrains, battery management systems, lithium battery recycling capabilities, smart grid technologies and various others.
"We are confident that, by working together, we can advance the market goals of our members," said Steve Dallas, CEO of Toronto Electric and one of Project Eve's co-founders.
The project was inspired by a similar U.S. consortium founded in 2000 to convince car manufacturers and the public that hybrid-electric cars could be economical and reliable. Project Eve is an open consortium and discussions are under way with additional participants.
ALL-ELECTRIC DELIVERY TRUCK IS THE FIRST IN CANADA
Gas-electric hybrid trucks and buses have turned up in a number of places on an experimental basis, but in Vancouver I drove in a three-ton freighter that is strictly battery electric.
This plug-in transport truck is from Smith Electric Vehicles in Kansas City, Mo. - recently visited by U.S. President Barack Obama. The cost is about $200,000, two and a half times as much as a conventional diesel truck.
Driver-dispatcher Ed Condowski of Vancouver's Novex Delivery Solutions told me of this EV's benefits as we drove a route near the former Olympic Village.
"We recharge this truck at night and it costs about $12 for the electricity. That's instead of $100 to $150 fill-up for our diesel trucks of the same size.
"Plus this one's whisper-quiet, no carbon footprint, no emissions. Now I can't drive it from here to Chilliwack and back, but for local deliveries in an eight- or nine-hour day it's perfect."
Condowski points out that this vehicle - the first of its kind in Canada - "isn't for delivering 30 or 40 envelopes to 30 or 40 places but for three or four skids going to three or four places."
The truck has a range of about 190 kilometres. Novex started using gasoline-electric hybrids as part of its fleet in 2004 and intends to have a 100 per cent clean fleet by 2012.