Skip to main content

Lack of heavy duty electric vehicles stalling transition of interested businesses, municipalities


As more businesses and municipalities seek greener solutions for transportation, those with heavier duty vehicles say there are limitations preventing them from switching entirely to battery electric vehicles.

"The biggest movement that we’re going to be able to make is moving to alternative fuels on our medium to heavy duty [vehicles]," said City of Victoria manager of fleet operations Simon Upshon.

"Electrification won’t come for a few more years, likely," he said.

The city has 21 electric vehicles in its fleet, with the largest one being a Ford Lightning pickup. Upshon says the goal is to turn 80 per cent of its fleet to electric vehicles by 2040, but there are challenges preventing them from expanding beyond that.

"The complication right now is the technology is pretty new," he said.

"There’s lots of advances and there’s lots of changes, so we’re not sure where that’s going to go yet."

Businesses say much of the money in manufacturing is also currently prioritizing the parcel and delivery realm, so medium to heavy duty vehicles, such as dump trucks, are coming at a premium price.

Coldstar Solutions Inc., based in Langford, B.C., is a transport business that specializes in hauling groceries.

It spent more than a year working with Canadian companies to develop its refrigerated EV (electric vehicle), which cost three times the price of a similar diesel version, at roughly $477,000, plus another $77,000 for the charging infrastructure.

"We’re the first ones in Canada to do an all electric refrigerated truck," said Coldstar Solutions Inc. CEO Kelly Hawes.

"The guys who build the trucks, they got to get the price of the trucks down," he added.

There are federal and provincial grants that companies can apply for to incentivize the switch. Hawes says he would like to see the makers of the vehicles be the ones to apply for the grants, so it can guarantee the price for the buyer.

"Now there’s a really good business case," said Hawes.

"People say, 'Ya, but the return on investment is only five years.' You still have to land out that cash and when you’re a smaller company, you don’t have the ability to do that," Hawes noted.

Coldstar would like to add more electric vehicles to its fleet, but will be relying on multiple fuel sources overall – including compressed natural gas. It currently has 25 vehicles that run on CNG.

Clean Energy Canada, a policy advocacy group helping the country transition, says it’s seeking input from industry. It plans to host a roundtable discussion with B.C. stakeholders in April.

"The federal government has set a target of 100 per cent of these vehicles being zero emission by 2040, so we want to make sure we’re addressing those problems and barriers and really looking to how we can catalyze that adoption," said senior policy advisor Ekta Bibra.

When it comes to the larger vehicles, such as 16-wheelers, Clean Energy Canada says the battery technology is developing. It anticipates to see results by the end of the decade.

"Right now, a lot of these businesses don’t necessarily have the financial or people capital that they need to transition," said Bibra.

"And that’s why these programs that can help reduce the initial cost of the vehicle or help reduce the cost of the charging infrastructure are really important." Top Stories

Stay Connected