by Craig M. Lee

Governments have never banned small cars, or motorcycles or bicycles. People knowingly choose their level of risk and benefits.

But definitions and regulations must evolve to keep pace with progress. And more information will help the public make informed and appropriate choices.

For Transport Canada, evaluating advanced vehicles helps it challenge its regulations to see if there are too few pigeonholes in which to slot these cars and trucks – thereby keeping them out of our country and off our shopping lists.

The program also assesses the market potential of advanced vehicles and tries to make the Canadian public aware of the choices.

But the best part is the “trickle-up.” If there’s a bigger market for these advanced vehicles, including North america, manufacturers will build more of them. If they exploit the technology, it will trickle up to mainstream vehicles that even the uninformed buy.

Result? Our air gets cleaner. Dino-juice in the ground lasts longer. But to put it simply: no market, no progress.

Explains engineering chief Lui Hrobelsky: “The government of Canada’s Action Plan 2000 outlines measure sto reduce global warming in response to the Kyoto Protocol. In that plan, there are five initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

“One was to significantly improve the fuel efficiency of on-road vehicles. Our Advanced Technology Vehicles Program is an important part of that overall strategy.”

Mr. Hrobelsky’s engineers test these vehicles for acceleration, braking, top speed and handling.

On-road and dyno fuel economy get checked and they’ll crash-test them too (front, back and side). If the vehicles are so equipped, they’ll also test roof strength and seat belts, defrosters and bumpers, among other things.

Track and laboratory tests are performed at the Motor Vehicle Test Centre in Blainville, Quebec. Dyno tests for emissions and fuel economy are conducted at Environment Canada’s labs in Ottawa.

Individual vehicle reports will be posted on Transport Canada’s web site (www.tc.gc.ca) when completed.

By the end of 2002, new classes of vehicles may be announced. Meantime, though, modest changes are already happening.

“We’ve put over 250,000 km on the advanced vehicles (in total),” says Mr. Hrobelsky. “Things that are intuitively obvious and make sense, we’re moving on.”

Charles Thibodeau, senior engineer, emissions, adds: “a lot of good things are coming out of this program and others related to climate change, like the sulpher content in fuel going down.

“Fuel cells are a wave of the future, but the future will not rely on one technology. The internal combustion engine is not going to disappear.”

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