Electric vehicles in Canada


in Canada, Economics, Law, Politics, The environment

Milan Ilnyckyj and Emily Horn, sitting on bridge supports

Dynasty is a Canadian company that builds light, low speed, battery powered cars. Their Dynasty IT vehicle has a range of 50km and a top speed of 40 km/h. Because Transport Canada refused to follow the lead of 44 American states and authorize the vehicles for non-highway use on roads, the company has decided to relocate to Pakistan. There, they will manufacture cars for the American market. The ZENN is in a similar predicament.

There is a real trade-off between producing light vehicles and producing ones that do well in crash tests. That said, we do permit people to ride absurdly unsafe motorbikes – even on the highway. It is incoherent to ban one and permit the other.

Perhaps it would make sense to create a special legal category for small, light vehicles of limited range, intended primarily for urban use. By all means, those purchasing them should be informed that they will not fare as well in a crash with a huge truck as someone in a larger, steel-framed car. That said, the economic and environmental advantages may justify the risk in the eyes of many.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan May 12, 2008 at 9:26 am

It is not “incoherent” to permit one and not the other. Everyone knows the dangers of motorcycling, but these electric quadracycles will be advertised as cars.

Besides, these mini cars are garbage, and Smart is already producing an electric version of the fortwo for the English market, we ought have that rather than the plastic death traps.

Milan May 12, 2008 at 9:42 am

“ZENN—that stands for zero emission, no noise—promises to fight on. Ian Clifford, its boss, points out that there has not been a single death related to LSVs in the United States, where 44 states allow them and some 45,000 such cars are in use.”

Milan May 12, 2008 at 9:48 am


The Smart ForTwo has a mass of 730kg. That compares with 653kg for the Dynasty IT and 773.4 for the Zenn.

What makes it safer?

. May 12, 2008 at 10:27 am

Renault seen investing up to $1 bln in electric car
Sun May 11, 2008 9:03am EDT

TEL AVIV (Reuters) – The head of an Israeli-backed electric car project estimated on Sunday that its partner, the Renault-Nissan alliance, would likely invest $500 million to $1 billion in the swappable-battery electric cars.

Sarah May 12, 2008 at 2:03 pm

Arguments about heavy cars being safer often miss much of the point – they are safer if you are inside them, and far less safe for whom or whatever is hit by them. Since heavier and heavier cars has meant that deaths of cyclists and pedestrians have been rising quite rapidly, the introduction of lighter weight cars in cities seems like a Very Good Thing.
Further, I think we can presume that anyone wanting – for example – to drive around the snowy, moose-ridden Canadian rockies wouldn’t choose a non-4WD car with a maximum speed of 44km hour.

Anonymous May 12, 2008 at 4:38 pm

One option that would reduce the dangers of light cars, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and conserve fossil fuels would be to reduce speed limits.

That would also help to encourage a transition to cars with dramatically less powerful engines. Nobody would need 100 horsepower if highway speeds were capped at 55 mph, as they were after the Arab Oil Embargo.

Tristan May 13, 2008 at 12:00 am

I am not an expert on car safety. However, the ForTwo gasoline version is legal on Canadian roads. So, presumably the people we pay to know these things think its safer.

Tristan May 13, 2008 at 12:04 am

“Nobody would need 100 horsepower if highway speeds were capped at 55 mph, as they were after the Arab Oil Embargo.”

This is a fundamental error. For starters, speed limits here are far lower than in Europe, and yet on average horsepower is much higher. It’s just a fact that some european cars get better economy at 140km/h than a comparable north american one does at 110, and that is perversely because the European one has less horsepower.

I am always an advocate of driving slowly – I personally drive at an average of 45-50mph because it is the most efficient speed for the car I access. And by most efficient I mean precisely, the cheapest.

However, there is no need to lower the speed limit in order to increase the mandated efficiency of cars. Whereas in the early 90s aerodynamics was king in styling departments, now vehicles are not nearly so optimized to move through the air cleanly.

The basic problem is demand – people want cars that are powerful and have “image”. Image is almost always incompatible with economy because it means things like grills and aggressive front ends, etc..

. May 13, 2008 at 1:20 pm

Electric vehicles

May 8th 2008
From The Economist print edition
Renault-Nissan’s ambitious plans for all-electric cars

COMMITMENT is one of Carlos Ghosn’s favourite words. He makes commitments himself and he expects his senior managers in the Renault-Nissan alliance to do the same. His latest, and one of his boldest, is that Renault and Nissan will lead the car industry in developing profitable zero-emission vehicles.

R.K. May 13, 2008 at 5:08 pm

I am not an expert on car safety. However, the ForTwo gasoline version is legal on Canadian roads. So, presumably the people we pay to know these things think its safer.

If the ForTwo can be safe at this weight, presumably the electric vehicles can be as well. The batteries would be heavy, but they could probably have lighter engines.

Tristan May 14, 2008 at 10:46 pm

“presumably the electric vehicles can be as well.”

Yes, they can, but they arn’t. Presumably. If transport Canada is doing their job.

Safety, however, is overrated. We allow people to drive around in cars from the 1970s – those are unsafe. But it’s normal.

. June 5, 2008 at 11:50 am

Driving in Canada

SIR – Your story on electric cars in Canada implied that Transport Canada is responsible for vehicle licensing in Canada (“Not on our roads”, May 3rd). This is a provincial-territorial responsibility. Nothing in Transport Canada’s proposal to clarify the definition of low-speed vehicles (LSVs) stops provinces from licensing them for city use, and some are reviewing their laws to allow such vehicles on their roads or are conducting pilot programmes to determine their safe use.

Transport Canada will conduct crash tests that mimic collisions typically observed on city streets with low-speed limits in order to evaluate the protection offered by LSVs. Furthermore, the electric car manufactured by ZENN Motor Company that you mentioned would not be classified as a LSV under the law and would need to be fully certified for safety as a passenger car.

Kash Ram
Director general
Road Safety Directorate
Transport Canada

Milan June 18, 2008 at 6:47 pm

Quebec authorizes use of electric cars on roads

The Canadian Press
June 18, 2008 7:01 AM ET

MONTREAL — They may not be going very fast, but electric cars will be allowed on some Quebec roads as part of a government-run pilot project to encourage their development.

Transport Minister Julie Boulet announced on Tuesday that two Quebec-made electric-car models will be authorized to use roads with speed limits below 50 kilometres-per-hour.

She said the project will allow transport authorities to develop traffic laws and equipment for electric cars to become more widespread.

. October 1, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Electric cars legalized in Vancouver
Last Updated: Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Vancouver city council voted Tuesday afternoon to give a green light to low-speed electric vehicles.

. April 15, 2009 at 11:18 am

ZENN on the Rick Mercer Report

November 20, 2007 – Rick Mercer tours our St. Jérome manufacturing facility and discovers Canada’s best kept secret: the all-electric ZENN!

Matt April 15, 2009 at 12:47 pm

“Nobody would need 100 horsepower if highway speeds were capped at 55 mph.”

It’s not about top speed, it’s about getting up to speed. My car has (a claimed) 140HP, but when I’m cruising on the highway, the throttle is only partly open, and the car is only producing a fraction of the revs and torque (and by extension horsepower) it is capable of. Accelerating to speed requires far more power that cruising at speed and advocating a less powerful engine doesn’t change that equation. Even a 100HP car would have a top speed significantly over 55MPH. My first car was rated at 66HP, but had a well worn carbuerator and I highly doubt it produced that much. It was still capable of driving well over 55MPH.

If people are interested in checking out electric cars that sacrifice a lot less in terms of styling and performance than the above mentioned examples, I recommend googling Tesla Motors. They have an extremely fast roadster and now a high performance sedan offering both of which are highly efficient, and more akin to the cars we are already used to.

Milan April 15, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Tesla does seem promising, partly because their products might give some much-needed consumer appeal to electric vehicles.

Tristan April 15, 2009 at 3:39 pm

I think the new ZENN is stylish enough to increase consumer appeal – and its far cheaper than the Tesla. It looks like a renault megane!

Tristan April 15, 2009 at 3:40 pm

A few years ago I drove a car with 140 horsepower up to 200km/h.

. April 16, 2009 at 11:43 am

Plan to boost electric car sales

Motorists will be offered subsidies of up to £5,000 to encourage them to buy electric or plug-in hybrid cars under plans announced by the government.

It is part of the government’s £250m plan to promote low carbon transport over the next five years.

But ministers do not expect eligible cars to hit the showrooms until 2011.

. April 16, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Simple legal changes with profound effects

by Dianne Saxe

One of the simplest legal changes that could have profound effects on urban carbon footprints would be legalization of small personal electric transportation devices, such as Segways and Zenn Cars. For an inspiring take on the urban revitalization potential of Segways (at least in the warmer months), watch Dean Kamen’s TED talk.

Matt April 16, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Segways have one big problem: They’re lame. If you can’t sell it to the masses, what good are they? An electric bicycle achieves the same economy (probably even better because they don’t require gyros and computers) and is already legal.

I agree with the general gist, though, that laws should change to reflect new realities. I think the government would be wise to use stimulus dollars to build infrastructure for our new electric future.

Milan April 26, 2009 at 6:49 pm
. April 27, 2009 at 10:18 am

Chrysler aims to produce all-electric USPS pimpmobiles… er, minivans

Have a look at that sweet piece up above and just imagine your mail being carted around inside. Go ahead, we’ll wait. If Chrysler has its druthers (and stays afloat long enough to make good on its good intentions), it’ll soon be producing a fleet of all-electric Town and Country minivans for the United States Postal Service. The automaker has voiced its plans to apply for a federal grant in order to get things moving, though it will be looking to utility companies Duke Energy and ConEd to make it all come together. If all goes well, the vans produced will have a range of around 40 miles, though it’s expected that they will have a gasoline-powered motor on board in case that last overnight package requires just a few more miles. ‘Course, there’s no guarantee that the application will result in a grant, but for all those who appreciate comedy, we can only hope it flies though in record time.

. May 11, 2009 at 1:28 pm

From zero to 100 on zero emissions
It plugs into a regular 110V outlet and takes four hours and less than $1 to fully power up.


From Thursday’s Globe and Mail
May 7, 2009 at 12:00 AM EDT

For all the futuristic technology under the seat, this emission-free electric-powered motorcycle rides like an old-school, single-cylinder two-stroker, with an untamed throttle and more than enough torque to leave your butt on the pavement.

All that’s missing is paint-shaker vibrations, and the rapid-fire brap-brap-brap from the exhaust. Instead, it has all the rumble of a moderately paced sewing machine.

This is the Zero S, the first full-size, highway-speed electric motorcycle to hit Canadian roads.

The Zero S is also the second model from California-based Zero Motorcycles, which has been selling an off-road electric model since 2007.

. June 7, 2009 at 11:22 pm

Engadget’s delightful cruise on the Ultra Motor A2B electric bike (with video!)

By Paul Miller

“The best news is that the A2B is available now at various dealerships, with an almost-palatable price tag of $2,600, 20 mile range and 20 mph max electric-assisted speed (limited due to regulations on bikes). Testing it out we found ourselves pedaling just a bit out of habit, and on the short city blocks we rarely got it past third gear, but there’s plenty of power for urban transport. The front and rear shocks provide a well-cushioned ride (and are bouncy enough for some easy wheelies), the small wheels keep the center of gravity low and maneuverability high, and the brakes are excellent.”

. June 9, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Engadget cruises with the Brammo Enertia electric motorcycle (with video!)

Little more than a month after getting our sweaty, gloveless mitts on the Zero Motorcycles Zero S we received an offer to ride yet another high-tech wunderbike: the Brammo Enertia. Naturally our first reaction was excitement — excitement only slightly dampened by news that we’d again be using the gridlocked NYC streets as our test track. But, we risked life, limb, and the ire of many a taxi driver to get some impressions of the latest electric motorcycle to hit the streets, and grabbed some video action of it all too. Read on for the lot.

. July 5, 2009 at 12:53 pm

New Video of Tesla’s Mass-Market Electric Car

“The Tesla Roadster has almost mythical status among electric car enthusiasts. It’s fast, with high torque over a wide RPM range, and can beat a Ferrari in terms of acceleration. Now Tesla has released new video of its upcoming new electric car, called the Model S, which Tesla Motors claims is the world’s first mass produced fully-electric vehicle. Unlike the Lotus-Elise based Roadster, the Model S is a traditional sedan of the type millions of commuters might actually drive. Tesla claims it will fit seven people (if two of them are ‘children under 10’), and has mounted a rather large 17in LCD in the dash. Key to Telsa’s future will be the evolution of lithium-ion battery technology. Tesla Motors claiming the new Model S can travel up to 300 miles on a single charge, but the battery will still take 45 minutes to quick-recharge.”

. July 5, 2009 at 12:53 pm
. October 7, 2009 at 10:45 am

Zenn pulls plug on EV plan

Jeremy Cato

So Ian Clifford has pulled the plug on what had been ZENN Motor’s long-standing electric car strategy.

Last week Clifford announced that ZENN is getting out of the electric car-making business and will instead focus on trying to achieve a battery breakthrough that will give the business a jolt.

ZENN has been pushing low-speed electrics for years and had emerged as one of the darlings of the “truly committed” – those who believe electric cars are the future. Clifford, the founder and chief executive, has nicely played the role of plucky upstart struggling along in the face of tin-eared politicians and a doubting public. Heck, even Rick Mercer had fun mocking the thick-headed politicians who simply could not see the ZENN genius.

Now ZENN no longer plans to distribute or sell its own highway-capable electric vehicle. The market is getting too competitive. Clifford’s little runabout, priced around $16,000 and with a top speed of only 40 km/h, simply is not going to take on the big guns in the auto industry and succeed.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: