Approaching Toronto on a typical Friday evening, Highway 401, the major artery connecting the Windsor-Detroit border with Canada’s largest city, is more often than not jammed. Pick-up trucks pulling campers or towing snowmobiles, SUVs crammed with tents or skis, and bumper-to-bumper tractor-trailers in the slowest lane of the world’s widest highway resembling a train. It’s enough to make an environmentalist weep.
Canada for years has danced around the global electric vehicle transition, touting its environmental importance while simultaneously propping up traditional auto manufacturing and defending its oil sands industry. But several recent developments suggest the shift to EVs is gaining traction. The combination of Joe Biden’s presidency in the U.S., coupled with a Democratic-led Congress and pandemic-loosened purse strings in Canada, could jump-start the change — helped by a big boost from industry.In the past six months, three global automakers have announced big electric vehicle investments in Canada’s most populous province.
General Motors Co. said on January 15 that it will invest nearly $1 billion to produce electric commercial vans in Ingersoll, Ontario. Ford plans to spend roughly $1.2 billion to begin building five battery-powered cars in Oakville, Ontario, from 2025. And in fall 2020, Fiat Chrysler said it would invest as much as $1.5 billion to create its own electric vehicle platform in the province.
The announcements were hailed by the union representing more 20,000 auto workers at the three companies, as was the promise of close to $600 million in provincial and federal government funding for the Ford plant. (GM and Fiat Chrysler are still in discussions with both governments for support).
“This level of cooperation and support for the auto industry’s transition to zero-emissions vehicles shows that as a nation we are taking a global leadership role in the development and manufacturing of electric vehicles,” Unifor President Jerry Dias said in a statement following the Ford deal