Plugged-in to the future – Report on commercial fleet electrification in Québec

Almost all conditions are "go" for the electrification of most commercial vehicles by 2030. That is, if there’s a will and a way, according to a recent Propulsion Québec report, partly financed by the Fonds de solidarité FTQ.

Medium to heavy trucks and commercial vans may only account for 11% of the total vehicle fleet in Québec, but they account for 66.5% of its greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why Propulsion Québec, the cluster for electric and smart transportation in the province, is paying close attention to these vehicles.

The Fleet Electrification in Quebec report, released in January, compares organizations in the province with five cases from our neighbours to the south (FedEx, Ryder, PG&E, New York City, and the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles), to identify the barriers to overcome and the levers to green light the electrification of commercial vehicles in the next decade.

Download the free report (PDF)

The U.S. examples are diverse: we learn how a courier company, a truck rental company, an energy distributor, a municipality and two ports are gradually incorporating electric vehicles into their fleets. Since they all are pioneers in their respective sectors, each one is moving ahead through trial and error, in their own way, with or without government support. Little by little, their fleets are becoming greener, sometimes by combining electricity with other solutions (hybrid, hydrogen, etc.), and the results are quite encouraging.

Similar barriers here and elsewhere

In addition to these case studies, the authors of the report consulted a panel of eight private and public fleet operators in Québec. They found that the barriers to electrification are the same here as elsewhere. Among the main ones: higher costs, recharging constraints, lack of expertise and internal resistance to change.

On the other hand, despite the significant incentives provided by our governments, "most present opportunities for improvement when compared to international best practices," states the report.

For example, in California, these include vehicle purchase subsidies of up to $150,000 for the purchase of a Lion 8 truck; support programs for pre-market technology development and demonstration projects to help carriers test electric, and utilities’ complete installation of charging stations at their own expense, as many in the U.S. are doing as part of so-called "make-ready" programs.

"Everyone uses LinkedIn in our field, but we're also on the lookout for virtual events," said Amélie. "These range from big business conferences by the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal to more specialized sessions by sector, near and far, for example, in the life sciences, engineering or financial services.”

Improve existing levers

Propulsion Québec's report recognizes the government's increased efforts, such as the recent Plan for a Green Economy 2030, but it calls for a shift into a higher gear.

To achieve this, one of its recommendations is to simplify or even combine Québec's two financial assistance programs—Écocamionnage (MTQ) and Transportez vert (TEQ)—by increasing the amounts granted and the number of eligible vehicles. Another is to subsidize more charging infrastructure and involve Hydro-Québec in a Québec "make- ready" program.

There are financing solutions for small commercial fleets whose budgets cannot absorb rapid electrification, even if it reduces their costs over the long term. In one notable scenario, vehicle acquisition and infrastructure are self-financed by operational gains, similar to the energy company service model used in the construction industry. This would substantially reduce the financial risks for fleet operators.

Turning talk into action

As well as funding, there is execution. The report gives operators several tips for successful electrification, including technological monitoring, testing vehicles on the market, planning for the consequences and managing change in their various departments, engaging their customers and subcontractors and tapping into the growing ecosystem of clean energy experts.

The authors emphasize that their recommendations must be "carefully implemented" to achieve results as positive as those observed in their case studies and if Québec is to reach its ambitious environmental goals by 2030.

Download the free report (PDF)

Propulsion Québec reminds us that the electrification of transportation in Québec is not just about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also a competitive catalyst for local businesses that will spark the economic sector of the future.