Posted by: jmtoriel | April 9, 2015

Open Letter to Professor Kennedy on Energy Analysis for EVs in Canada

“You’re better off filling up at the pump,” Kennedy replied. “Or if you really want to go for something greener, you should be buying a conventional hybrid car.” — Professor Kennedy on March 24, 2015 The Current Interview
Hello Professor Kennedy,
Thank you for providing an informative report and participating in the recent interview with CBC Radio’s The Current.
As president of a company that consults and provides installation services for plug-in customers, and co-director of the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association (VEVA), I have done extensive research on the benefits and advantages of plug-in vehicles. I am also a proud owner of a BMW i3.
I wanted to clarify a few items from your report.

In your report, you concluded that EVs will not significantly reduce emissions in provinces that produce more than 600 tons of greenhouse gases(GHGs) per gigawatt-hour of electricity. According to similar calculations and analysis in the US, the Union of Concerned Scientists report, “State of Charge” (2012), calculated the efficiency of the vehicles themselves as a key distinction in that they only require about about 25% of the energy to go an equal distance than a conventional internal combustion engineand use regenerative breaking to make up much of the used up energy for greater efficiency. 

1) Given recent calculations in the State of Charge report and the overall improvements on plug-in vehicles from the original report, there was little to no negative impact by plug-in vehicles in a more carbon intensive grid scenario using similar averages from the US. I do not know how your conclusion is seemingly different and I require clarification so I can base my own analysis comparatively in a Canadian context.

2) Does the report account for the emissions in extraction, production, transportation and refining of the heavy oil and/or refined crude to the gas pumps and the waste losses in efficiency due mostly to heat in the pistons propelling the conventional vehicles? This seems only fair when such strong emphasis is placed on analysis for plug-in vehicles accounting for the energy needed to produce batteries.

3) Lastly, does it account for the other emissions in our urban and suburban areas, such as particulates, that negatively impact respiratory illnesses and deaths relating to smog and poor air quality? The costs associated with health care costs from tailpipe emissions is equally if not more important when making the comparison.

I ask these because it appears that the resulting conversations and blogs from your report and the Current interview with Anna-Maria Tremonti, have led to an unfair comparison of vehicles on par as if they required the same amount of energy to achieve the same distances and do not put equal context on tailpipe emissions. I’m hoping you can correct me if I’m incorrect that this was not calculated accordingly to come to your conclusion.

2013 study from Natural Resources Canada indicated that 95 per cent of plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) sales were in the six “clean power” provinces—the provinces that emit fewer than 200 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour. This is a very good thing despite the tone and headline granted by the CBC to provoke greater controversy and readership. 

I agree that decarbonizing the transportation system is crucial step in reducing Canada’s GHG emissions and we should be winding down our reliance of fossil fuels for energy and transportation given the science you outline in your report. According to a 2012 WWF-Canada study, road transportation accounts for around 19 per cent of GHGs, making it the “greatest contributor” and “second-highest growth source of emissions in the country.” It is in our regional and national (as well as global) interests to reduce our carbon footprints and GHG emissions,but stating that one is better off fuelling at the pump in some parts of Canada seem counter-intuitive. 

J-M Toriel
I’ll post a response when I receive one.


  1. Well said! I heard the interview that morning on CBC and thought very much the same thing. And, in the context of the energy consumed to make batteries, let’s not forget that at EOL 95% (I’ve heard various figures over the years) of the ‘dead’ battery is recyclable, and would ask ” How much of the fuel and oil used in an ICE motor is recycled.. 0%?

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