If Toronto is to seriously consider a proposal that would require ride-hailing app drivers to exclusively use electric vehicles, then experts say the city must urgently improve charging infrastructure in high-rise and multi-unit buildings.
After all, says Ian Klesmer, that’s where many of them live.
Klesmer is director of strategy and grants at the Atmospheric Fund (TAF), a city of Toronto climate agency whose research, he says, has shown that many drivers who work for ride-hailing apps are also low-income people or new immigrants whose apartment Los Buildings would require upgrades to accommodate electrical chargers.
“This is actually a really important group that we think can lead the wave of electrification,” he said.
The city aims net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. Last week, its economic and community development committee voted to consider transitioning the rental car industry to net-zero emissions by 2031.
Transportation accounts for one-third of the city of Toronto’s total emissions, according to the proposal. Of that, between four and six percent of those emissions come from ridesharing.
A modified version of the proposal It will go before the city council on October 11.
There will be “serious equity issues” if the city decides to pass a law that mandates electric vehicles but doesn’t make charging stations accessible, said Olivier Trescases, director of the Electric Vehicle Research Center at the University of Toronto.
“That’s a major issue that the city needs to address if they’re going to require that,” he said.
Other jurisdictions are “much more favorable to electric vehicles”
Maaz Inam, an Uber driver since 2016, told CBC Toronto that he is concerned about the lack of infrastructure, the time it currently takes to charge a vehicle and the cost of the vehicle itself.
This is consistent with the results of an internal survey that Uber Canada completed in December 2022, according to a memo the ride-sharing company sent to the city.
While more than two-thirds of the 2,000 drivers surveyed told the company they were interested in their next car being electric, all respondents had reservations, whether due to cost, long wait times to obtain a vehicle , the lack of government incentives for electric vehicles, and concerns about charging.
“The platform is not there,” said Inam, who lives in Mississauga and ferries passengers around the Greater Toronto Area.
He once drove a Tesla Model 3 and, while he says it was impressive, the battery “was dying pretty quickly.”
“You have to charge up to an hour to fill the tank,” he said. Not to mention that if there are only a few charging stations, “everyone will have to wait a long time to finish charging.”
People want to feel safe when charging electric vehicles
James Nowlan, the city’s executive director of environment and climate, says public consultations are underway. The goal is to try to better understand how much EV charging is needed in Toronto, where and when.
Nowlan says residents want a public charging network so they can be sure that if they buy an electric vehicle, they won’t have problems “whether for short or long trips.”
According to Trescases, a consultation process may not be the best use of the city’s time. He says the city should focus on installing chargers. Places like Europe, British Columbia and some British Columbia municipalities are “much friendlier to electric vehicles,” Trescases said.
In its memo to the city about the electric vehicle proposal, Uber Canada warned that the recommendations would be difficult to achieve “without meaningful action from all levels of government.”
As of December 2021, Toronto requires that all residential parking spaces provided to persons living in an apartment or condominium be equipped with a clearly marked, energized outlet with sufficient voltage to meet the Society of Automotive Engineers standard of USA But installation costs time and money.
“It is complicated to install, especially in old buildings,” says Trescases, noting that “we have seen that it should not be done.”
Focusing on rideshare drivers could save money and carbon
Last year, TAF launched a federally funded program that specifically supports the implementation of electric chargers in multifamily buildings in the GTA and Hamilton.
Demand from building owners in Toronto has been “overwhelming,” Klesmer said.
So far, the climate agency has allocated funds to 29 buildings, 10 of which have already installed chargers.
Since research shows that ride-hailing app drivers tend to be on the road four to five times more per year than the average commuter, Klesmer says it makes sense to focus on installing chargers where drivers live.
“They will be able to save the most money and generate the most carbon by electrifying their trips as soon as possible,” he said.
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Klesmer says this is especially true now that the price of gas has skyrocketed:
“Smart condo boards and smart property owners see the writing on the wall and want to quickly prepare to meet the needs of their tenants.”