Quebec passes Canada’s first zero-emission vehicle rule, to start in 2018

Province of Quebec in CanadaProvince of Quebec in Canada

Quebec has become the first Canadian province to adopt a requirement for sales of a certain number of zero-emission vehicles, similar to the one in effect in California.

Quebec’s Assemblée Nationale passed the regulation on October 26 by a unanimous vote of 112 to 0, and to universal praise from Canada’s electric vehicle community.

The province joins not only California but nine other ZEV states (Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont) at the forefront of electrifying North American transportation.

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Starting with the 2018 model year (effectively, during the fall of 2017 for most makers), car companies will need to generate ZEV credits equivalent to 3.5 percent of their sales in Quebec—and the threshold will rise rapidly over time.

Quebec's ZEV mandate, Bill 104, received unanimous support in its provincial legislatureQuebec’s ZEV mandate, Bill 104, received unanimous support in its provincial legislature

Most government documents list a target of 15.5 percent of sales by 2025—though Reuters quoted a spokesperson for the Minister of Environment saying the 15.5 percent target was for 2020.

These dates straddle the California Air Resources Board’s target of 14.5 percent in 2022.

In an interesting symmetry, the passage of Bill 104 means about one-quarter each of Canadians and Americans now live in ZEV jurisdictions.

Quebec has 23 percent of Canada’s population, while the 10 ZEV states comprise about 28 percent of U.S. residents.

While it has perennially jockeyed with British Columbia for electric vehicle market share leadership in Canada, Quebec’s ZEV Act should position it as the market leader by a large margin.

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Manufacturers will have adjust their sales strategies to achieve a vehicle mix that meets their individual ZEV credit requirements—meaning more battery-electric vehicles.

The 3.5 percent target for model year 2018 is nominally four times the current market share for all plug-in vehicles in Quebec (0.9 percent in the first eight months of the year).

That total includes not only battery-electric vehicles but also plug-in hybrids.

Plug-in electric vehicle market share in Canadian provinces offering electric-car rebatesPlug-in electric vehicle market share in Canadian provinces offering electric-car rebates

Quebec’s ZEV Act from 50,000 feet

Before diving into the details, it should be noted that while Quebec’s ZEV law has been adopted, the draft regulation has yet to be tabled for public consultation.

It may yet be amended in response to automaker input, though car companies—Ford, Nissan, and Kia among them—have been positive in their public responses.

The relative lack of industry pushback could stem from a variety of reasons.

Automakers appear to have learned to live with the California Air Resources Board’s ZEV regulations, which the Quebec ZEV mandate closely mirrors.

(In Quebec as in California, carmakers selling fewer than 4,500 vehicles per year are exempt.)

Quebec government framing about the ZEV Act, focusing on economic opportunity [@Heurtel on Twitter]Quebec government framing about the ZEV Act, focusing on economic opportunity [@Heurtel on Twitter]

Steady declines in lithium-ion cell cost have made it easier for mass-market automakers to justify designing plug-in electric model variants or dedicated vehicles.

Moreover, the lack of auto-assembly plants in Quebec reduces the political clout of manufacturers.

Also , successive Quebec governments, from both traditional ruling parties, have also flexed the muscle of industrial policy in support of transport electrification. They have argued that the province will reap economic benefits by positioning itself at the forefront of this shift.

Finally, the province’s public utility, Hydro-Quebec, has seized on plug-in electric vehicles as an opportunity to increase its revenues.

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