The unanswered questions about battery power

By Bobbi Ann Brady

Haldimand-Norfolk MPP

As we rush towards meeting the prime minister’s imposed deadline of ending production of fossil fuel vehicles by 2030, many unanswered questions remain.

In case you missed it, Toyota was recently under fire when company president Akio Toyoda questioned if EVs should be pursued as the only option for car buyers. According to Derek Burney of the National Post, “Toyoda would prefer to offer a variety of environmentally friendly, hybrid-electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles along with more traditional gas-powered automobiles.”

His concern was that there are parts of the world where the electric charging infrastructure is not sufficient and the electricity that is available in some countries is generated from fossil fuel sources. Makes sense to me, but not to the fund managers who attacked him and attempted to have him removed from his position.

For those who aren’t aware, Toyota is not a slacker in the battery-powered vehicle department. In fact, the company recently made headlines by the announcement it had developed a solid-state battery which may be an alternative to lithium. It is also a leader in the availability of hybrid vehicles.

My takeaway from this is why we aren’t allowed to discuss alternatives, like hydrogen, and admit there are places where plugging in a car isn’t practical? Concerns have been raised about the scarcity of chargers in northern Ontario where there are long distances between communities.

I have also been puzzling over the whole issue of the huge amount of government subsidy being poured into building two battery plants in Ontario. On one hand, an argument could be made that companies will locate in another location where subsidies are being offered, but on the other hand what about more subsidies for small business still struggling or for agriculture?

Currently, Ontario municipalities for road maintenance receive thousands of dollars each year from the 9-cents-per-liter Ontario fuel tax for road maintenance receive thousands of dollars each year from the 9-cents-per-liter Ontario fuel tax. What is the future of that funding with reduced gasoline consumption? Will a similar tax be added to electricity bills?

Then there’s the whole issue of the future. What if a better alternative is found to plug-in batteries in 10 years, or 20 years? I don’t know this will happen, but it might. For instance, can these plants adapt to the solid state battery Toyota is talking about? Maybe the future is in hydrogen and batteries in vehicles will be a thing of the past in 20 years? I think of the subsidies given to Siemens to build wind turbines in Ontario and the fact that the company packed up and left once the push to build more wind turbines dried up in Ontario.

And dare I raise the whole issue of gasoline-powered vehicles in the fields and on the water? Both farmers and boaters are known to use vehicles for much longer than passenger automobiles are on the road. It’s safe to say all the tractors, combines and boats in Haldimand-Norfolk can’t be converted to electric. What is the future for agriculture, commercial fishing and recreational boating?

All of this is not to say that I am opposed to electric vehicles. My concern is there are still many unanswered questions. In the quest to push for a conversion before it may be practical, and the single-mindedness of environment saviours, there could be some serious consequences. What those are, only the future will tell.

Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk.