Ottawa, Ontario – The recent spike in gasoline pri WordPress User Manual Plugin ces could favour the purchase of alternative-fuel vehicles, but internal combustion engines still have the lowest costs, according to a new report by the Conference Board of Canada, which said there need to be substantial changes in fuelling technologies and the practices of motorists who drive them to maximize use of alternative fuels.

The report, Are We Ready to Step Off the gas? Preparing for the Impacts of Alternative Fuel Vehicles concludes that, in addition to assessing vehicle costs and environmental benefits, policy makers need to also assess how the use of these vehicles will affect public infrastructure, government finances, and environmental and energy policies.

“The high purchase price of these vehicles compared with conventional vehicles and the lack of infrastructure to serve them have limited their use,” said Len Coad, director of energy, environment and technology policy. “Widespread adoption will happen only when an improved vehicle with superior environmental performance is available at a comparable cost and minimal additional inconvenience.”

High gasoline prices may draw motorists’ attention to alternative vehicles, but the transition is also being driven by demand on the transportation sector to improve its environmental performance. “Transportation is currently responsible for 27 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, with personal and light-duty vehicles alone accounting for 12 per cent,” Coad said. “Indeed, the Canadian transportation sector has a major role to play in the transition to clean energy in Canada.”

The report assessed the public-policy implications of international combustion engine (ICE) vehicles using conventional fuels, which currently account for more than 90 per cent of all vehicles in Canada; ICE vehicles using renewable fuels; vehicles fuelled by natural gas; hybrids and plug-in hybrids; full battery electric vehicles; and hydrogen electric vehicles.

ICE vehicles using renewable fuels such as ethanol have the advantage of an increasing fleet of flex-fuel models that can burn fuel with up to 85 per cent ethanol, but are disadvantaged by a lack of ethanol fuelling infrastructure. Alternative vehicles such as battery electrics exhibit significantly better environmental performance than ICE vehicles, but the current cost premiums exceed the energy savings.

The most promising technologies face different challenges. Due to the reduced range of plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles, charging stations and battery exchange stations will be required, or motorists will have to reduce the distance that can be travelled.

The report concluded that policy makers will want to consider infrastructure requirements, environmental impacts and the relative cost of alternative fuel vehicles as they design rebates, subsidies and other incentives.

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